Coffee offers a wealth of health benefits -- there's its well-known ability to temporarily boost concentration and alertness, and drinking coffee might also lower your risk of liver disease and type 2 diabetes, explains the Linus Pauling Institute. Black coffee is a healthier alternative to coffee flavored with calorie-laden cream and sugar, and it might also help you lose weight. Just make sure you don't overdo it -- too much caffeine can have negative health effects.
Cut Calories, Lose Weight
If you drink coffee, serving it black is your best option for weight loss. Black coffee is calorie-free -- it's the cream and sugar that can pack on the pounds. A single cup of coffee with 2 teaspoons of sugar and an ounce of half-and-half has 69 calories. And because the average American drinks roughly 3 cups of coffee a day, that adds up to an extra 207 calories. If you were to switch from coffee with sugar and cream to black coffee every day for a year, you'd save more than 75,000 calories -- the equivalent of almost 22 pounds of fat.
Potential Benefits from Caffeine
Caffeine might also offer some calorie-burning benefits that help your weight-loss efforts, but it's too early to say for sure. One laboratory study, published in Food & Function in 2012, found that caffeine boosted thermogenesis -- a phenomenon that helps you burn more calories. And a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2009 found that caffeine also boosted thermogenesis in people, although this study was small and included only seven test subjects.
A report from the International Journal of Obesity, published in 2010, noted that thermogenic compounds -- like caffeine -- might work better in some people than in others, or they might only work effectively under some circumstances. So while there's some potential for the caffeine in coffee to help you lose weight, you shouldn't count on coffee alone as a weight-loss strategy, at least until more research has been done.
Black Coffee and Weight Loss
There's also some evidence linking coffee itself to weight loss and weight control. One study, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology in 2015, studied the dietary habits of more than 93,000 people to look for patterns between coffee consumption and weight. The study authors observed that people who drank more coffee had a lower risk of obesity, as well as a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. A study with laboratory animals, published in Nutrition & Diabetes in 2014, found that mice that consumed coffee and were fed a high-fat diet gained weight more slowly than the mice that didn't drink coffee.
Observational research and animal studies aren't bulletproof evidence that coffee will help you shed pounds, but they hint that it might offer weight-loss benefits.
Drawbacks of Coffee
Even if you're drinking calorie-free black coffee, you should stick to a moderate intake to avoid taking in too much caffeine. While small amounts of caffeine might boost thermogenesis, too much can make you jittery, interrupt your sleep and cause anxiety, depression or a fast heart rate. The University of Maryland Medical Center identifies 2 to 3 cups of coffee daily -- or roughly the average intake for Americans -- as the recommended upper limit for caffeine intake. If you're drinking more than 3 cups daily, choose decaf coffee for the extra cups.
- Linus Pauling Institute: Coffee
- HealthAliciousNess: Nutrient Facts Comparison Tool
- Harvard School of Public Health: Coffee by the Numbers
- Food & Function: Caffeine Dose-Dependently Induces Thermogenesis but Restores ATP in HepG2 Cells in Culture
- International Journal of Obesity: Thermogenic Ingredients and Body Weight Regulation
- Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: Caffeine Effects on Short-Term Performance During Prolonged Exercise in the Heat
- European Journal of Clinical Nutrition: The Effect of Caffeine, Green Tea and Tyrosine on Thermogenesis and Energy Intake
- International Journal of Epidemiology: Coffee Intake and Risk of Obesity, Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes: a Mendelian Randomization Study
- Nutrition & Diabetes: Effect of Chronic Coffee Consumption on Weight Gain and Glycaemia in a Mouse Model of Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Caffeine in the Diet