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Is It OK to Drink Decaf Coffee When Trying to Lose Weight?

author image Marie Dannie
Marie Dannie has been a professional journalist since 1991, specializing in nutrition and health topics. She has written for "Woman’s Own," the "Daily Mail," the "Daily Mirror" and the "Telegraph." She is a registered nutritionist and holds a Bachelor of Science degree with honors in food science from the University of Nottingham.
Is It OK to Drink Decaf Coffee When Trying to Lose Weight?
A woman is pouring coffee in a french press. Photo Credit Design Pics/Design Pics/Getty Images

Decaffeinated coffee allows you to indulge in the rich, dark, nutty and slightly bitter taste of coffee without the worries of caffeine. While caffeine is generally considered safe, too much can lead to anxiety or trouble sleeping. Decaffeinated coffee, like caffeinated coffee, is naturally low in calories if drunk on its own, which can help with weight loss. However, if you add a lot of cream or sugar, you can significantly raise the calorie content and lose the potential weight-loss benefits of caffeine.

Weight Loss and Decaffeination

Decaffeinated coffee contains a minimal amount of caffeine, rather than no caffeine at all. In the United States, this means that 97 percent of the original caffeine content is removed, through a variety of processes. Because decaffeinated coffee has some caffeine in it, you may get the weight-loss benefits associated with caffeine, albeit to a reduced degree. A 12-year study, published in 2006 in the “American Society for Clinical Nutrition,” found that increasing caffeine intake could potentially lead to a lower likelihood of weight gain in the long run. However, the effects of caffeine on weight loss and lowered weight gain were slight, so drinking decaffeinated rather than caffeinated coffee will not greatly affect the weight-loss benefits of coffee, namely its low calorie content.

Calories in Decaf Coffee

Decaffeinated coffee has no calories per 8-ounce serving. This means that drinking it in place of a higher-calorie beverage, such as a lemon-lime soda, which is also caffeine-free, can help build a calorie deficit that, over time, could lead to weight loss. An 8-ounce serving of lemon-lime soda has 104 calories per serving, which means that drinking decaf coffee in its place five times a week can lead to a 520-calorie deficit each week. Over the course of one year, this can lead to almost 8 pounds of lost body weight.

Watch the Added Ingredients

According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, what you drink can have a significant impact on your weight loss. Considered a “diet trap,” high-calorie drinks add lots of calories -- and sometimes fat -- with little nutritive value. While coffee is naturally calorie-free, sugar and cream raise the calorie content significantly. A single teaspoon of sugar has 4 calories per serving, and even a 1-tablespoon serving of light cream has 29 calories and almost 3 grams of fat. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, added sugars are a primary contributor to weight gain and obesity, and sugar-sweetened beverages are a prime source of added sugar in the American diet.

Effects on Metabolism in Mice

Decaffeinated coffee may help with insulin resistance associated with diabetes, as well as energy metabolism in the brain. Researchers conducting an animal study, with results published in a 2012 issue of “Nutritional Neuroscience,” found that a high-fat diet enriched with a decaffeinated green coffee supplement led to improved glucose tolerance and better brain energy metabolism in the mice test subjects. While the results were promising, further study is needed and the effects of decaffeinated coffee itself -- not as a supplement -- on humans may not be the same.

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