Those of us who love coffee drink it for the taste, the aroma, and yes — for the caffeine buzz that gets us going in the morning and gives us a little extra boost in the afternoon. And now we can feel virtuous about our obsessive coffee consumption, too. Because studies are starting to show that coffee may be benefiting us in a number of other ways.
A great deal of this news is about roasted coffee – the kind you buy at your local grocery store, and drink in your favorite coffee shop. But another kind of coffee has been making headlines lately. This is green coffee, and it’s getting a lot of hype.
What Is Green Coffee?
Those lovely aromatic brown beans you’re familiar with started out as small red berries that look a bit like cherries. Inside the berries are green seeds which, when roasted, result in the rich flavor and characteristic scent we associate with coffee.
Green coffee is simply the natural, unroasted coffee bean. The flavor of a green coffee bean is nothing like the flavor of roasted coffee. In fact, it’s unpleasantly bitter — so bitter that some people find it nauseating. The green coffee bean is extremely resilient, and much harder to brew than its roasted cousin, too.
Due to these drawbacks, the best way to consume green coffee is in the form of a supplement extract. Green coffee bean extract is made from unroasted coffee beans that are soaked in water. Once the beans are sufficiently soaked, the water is concentrated to make the green coffee extract. This extract doesn’t have a lot of flavor or aroma, and it’s easily consumed as a supplement together with drinks.
What Makes Green Coffee Special?
There’s more than a morning pick-me-up in that little green seed. The main vital compound in the humble green coffee bean is a substance called chlorogenic acid (which unfortunately is lost in the heat of roasting to make your standard brown coffee bean), and there are a whole host of benefits attributed to it.
The benefits that have gotten the most attention from the health sector and the media are lowered blood pressure, decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, and improved weight loss. The richest natural source for chlorogenic acid in the plant world is green coffee beans.
Recent studies also suggest that green coffee can also lower the risk of depression, interrupt the onset of dementia and slow the progress of Alzheimer’s disease.
Additionally, they are packed with beneficial bioactive compounds. They’re especially high in antioxidants, which are known to counteract the damaging effects of free radicals in the body. Free radical damage can range from the wrinkles that show up in our skin as we age, all the way to the uncontrolled growth of cancer cells.
How Does Green Coffee Help You Lose Weight?
The theory of how green coffee boosts weight loss is all about chlorogenic acid and how it affects our metabolism. The research shows chlorogenic acid helps our body to regulate glucose levels by slowing the glucose release process.
Since glucose is, in effect, sugar, it’s an easily accessible source of energy for our body. So when less glucose is released into our body, it has to seek other energy sources. This is where the fat cells come in — they’re the next likely source of energy.
Chlorogenic acid speeds up the rate at which we metabolize fat and slows down the speed at which our body absorbs fat. In combination, these effects can lead to quicker, easier weight loss.
What Do The Studies Conclude?
In a 2007 study designed to observe the effects that chlorogenic acid had on glucose absorption rates, researchers made an interesting discovery. The subjects who drank regular caffeinated instant coffee supplemented with chlorogenic acid showed a significant reduction in the amount of glucose their bodies absorbed — nearly 7 percent less than subjects who drank regular or decaffeinated instant coffee without the supplement.
What was surprising about the results of this study, though, was the additional benefit researchers observed. The subjects who drank the enriched coffee also lost more weight — slightly over 8 pounds more during the 12 week period — than those in the other groups. The researchers concluded that using chlorogenic acid supplements over a long period of time might result in lowered body mass and reduced body fat.
Following the unexpected findings of that study, a larger study was conducted on mice in 2010. The mice were fed a high-fat diet designed to make them obese, and then one group was given chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid (another component of green coffee) supplements in their food.
The mice who were fed the supplements demonstrated significant weight loss and lower levels of triglycerides and cholesterol. Researchers determined that, although both supplements were effective in reduction of body weight and metabolism of fat, chlorogenic acid was the more potent of the two.
Finally, a study published in 2012 addressed the weight loss effects of a specific commercial green coffee extract called GCA. Once again, the results of the 22-week study were similar to those of the earlier studies.
When participants were taking the GCA supplement, they lost significant amounts of weight, body mass, and body fat compared to when they did not take GCA. The researchers concluded that GCA showed great potential as a natural and inexpensive way to prevent and reduce adult obesity.
You might be wondering about the much-publicized experiment with green coffee extract run by Dr. Oz in 2012. He, too, got similar results. But many researchers have criticized his methods as less than scientific — as he was inspired by past studies and findings.
Possible Safety Issues To Look Out For?
So far, there appear to be no adverse side effects when using green coffee extract as a supplement. As with any nutritional supplement, it’s important to take no more than the specific dosage recommended on a product’s packaging.
Don’t use green coffee bean if you’re allergic to coffee or caffeine — and watch for signs of too much caffeine, like rapid heart rate or feelings of nervousness or jitters. Like any coffee product, this isn’t for children.
Additionally, it’s always a good idea to consult your doctor before starting any nutritional supplement. This is especially true if you’re taking medication for heart disease or bleeding disorders like hemophilia, as green coffee extract may lower blood pressure. And at this time, since research is still limited, pregnant or nursing women should avoid using a green coffee extract supplement.
What To Look For When Buying Green Coffee Extract?
Look for a product with no fillers or artificial ingredients. The main ingredient should be either Svetol or GCA — these are both respected products containing 45 percent chlorogenic acid. Lower levels of chlorogenic acid have not been proven to benefit weight loss.