Sixty-eight percent of Americans over age 20 are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And Americans spend more than $40 billion on dieting and weight-loss products each year, many of which are supplements containing stimulants such as caffeine. Although caffeine is not a cure or treatment for an excessive appetite, it may provide benefits if you approach it properly.
Consuming caffeine may reduce your appetite for a brief period. It may also slightly boost your metabolism, or the rate at which your body utilizes calories for fuel. Because many caffeinated beverages, including black coffee, unsweetened tea and diet soft drinks, are devoid of calories, they may also help you cut back on calories if you consume them in place of higher-calorie beverages such as regular soft drinks, wine, beer or fruit punch. It is also common to mistake thirst for hunger, so if you quench your perceived hunger pangs with a caffeinated beverage, your cravings may dissipate.
Some caffeinated beverages, such as regular soft drinks and blended coffee drinks, are high in sugar, calories or fat. And consuming more than 500 mg of caffeine per day -- the amount found in roughly five 8-oz. cups of coffee -- may cause anxiety, insomnia, irritability, restlessness, upset stomach, rapid heartbeat and muscle tremors. Stimulant-containing dietary supplements are associated with similar risks.
In a study published in "Clinical Nutrition" in January 2009, 27 participants consumed capsaicin, which occurs naturally in hot peppers; green tea, which contains caffeine; sweet peppers; capsaicin plus green tea; or a placebo on 10 separate days. Researchers then analyzed the participants' appetite, food intake, body weight and heart rate and found that green tea consumed with or without capsaicin led to increased satiation, or fullness, and reduced calorie intake.
Take caution when using caffeinated products to enhance weight loss. Moderate intake is generally safe, and involves up to three to four cups of coffee, or 200 to 300 milligrams of caffeine, per day. Avoid energy drinks, which may contain multiple stimulants and often do not display specific caffeine or stimulant content on product labels. Avoid high-calorie and high-fat caffeine sources, which may contribute to weight gain. Talk to your doctor before using over-the-counter appetite suppressants, which may cause a variety of side effects and interact with medications. Safe ways to manage your appetite include eating fiber-rich foods such as whole grains, vegetables and fruits; avoiding sugary foods and white flour products; drinking plenty of water; and exercising regularly.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Obesity and Overweight
- Iowa State University: kNOw Dieting: Risks and Reasons to Stop
- University of Michigan: Caffeine
- "Clinical Nutrition"; Effects of Capsaicin, Green Tea and CH-19 Sweet Pepper on Appetite and Energy Intake in Humans in Negative and Positive Energy Balance; H.C. Reinbach, et al.; January 2009