Myth-Busting The Green Coffee Diet
We investigate the famous “green coffee diet” and examine the active ingredients in green coffee seeds and their effects on the body. Most of us are familiar with the look of a classic coffee bean; dark brown and richly roasted, coffee beans radiate a strong earthy aroma when ground up to make the coffee drinks we know and love. But where did the coffee bean come from? Before the roasting process beings, coffee beans are actually green seeds which grow on coffee trees (most commonly the Coffea arabica tree). These green ‘beans’ can be picked unripened or when ripe and have become popular with dieters and health fanatics in the 21st century.
A Few Things To Know About Green Coffee
Before we get started with the health effects of green coffee, here are a few important things to know about coffee and green beans:
- Green coffee beans are NOT beans, they are seeds.
- Green coffee beans can be used to make coffee, however unroasted coffee is very bitter and acidic.
- It is possible to roast whole green coffee beans at home in the oven to make your own coffee blend.
- The flavor of coffee comes from the roasting method, roasting temperature and type of coffee bean.
- Drinkable green coffee usually comes bagged like tea or as a whole bean.
- Starbucks makes green coffee drinks using unroasted beans. Unroasted coffee contains the caffeine of coffee but not the deep flavour.
How To Take Green Coffee
With Starbucks jumping on board the green coffee diet bandwagon, there are now more ways than ever to incorporate green coffee into your diet. For the Starbucks blend, the raw coffee bean is soaked in water then dried and added to other drink ingredients (sugar and flavorings). Green coffee extract is also available in capsule form or as a powder. The active ingredient in most green coffee supplements is said to be “Chlorogenic Acid” and Caffeine. Green coffee supplements are also sometimes bundled with other energizing compounds, such as Guarana and Green Tea.
The Science Behind Chlorogenic Acid
Chlorogenic Acid is a type of naturally-occuring acid that gives green coffee its acidic taste. The primary effect of Chlorogenic Acid on the body is thought to be a slowed rate of glucose release after food consumption. In 2003, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition used coffee (traditional roasted coffee) to find a positive correlation between coffee consumption and slowed glucose release into the bloodstream. Even roasted, there is Chlorogenic Acid present in coffee, and the acid can also be found in other plants, such as sunflower leaves.
Green Coffee and Weight Loss
The green coffee diet is often touted as a weight loss program. Based on Chlorogenic Acid’s effect on blood glucose levels, coffee is more likely to be beneficial as an anti-diabetic measure, or blood sugar regulator. A strong correlation between green coffee extract (or coffee in general) and weight loss is yet to be determined, but there is evidence to suggest that the supplement instead has a regulatory effect on blood pressure. A clinical trial conducted in 2006 at Keio University, Tokyo, Japan concluded that Chlorogenic Acid can effectively lower blood pressure in patients exhibiting signs of mild hypertension (increased blood pressure). We know that for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, coffee has been used as an after-dinner drink so its effect on blood pressure (which can become increased after salt and fat consumption) and blood sugar (again increased after eating) confirms the tradition. The caffeine in green coffee and roasted beans also has an effect on the brain, increasing neurotransmitters and helping to reduce fatigue and increase alertness.
There is no proof of green coffee’s effect on body mass or weight loss, however it is important to note that both caffeine and Chlorogenic Acid can act as laxatives, making them dangerous if over-consumed. Way back in 1964, research was conducted in Ottawa, Canada that suggested that Chlorogenic Acid could act as a chemical sensitizer, inducing allergic reactions. Contrasting research has also determined the opposite to be true – coffee can reduce the symptoms of allergies. There is a great deal more research needed into both the effects of Chlorogenic Acid and coffee as a drink before firm conclusions can be drawn about its health effects.
Green Coffee versus Roasted Coffee
If Chlorogenic Acid and caffeine are present in both roasted and raw coffee beans, is there a benefit to taking green coffee extracts? The main difference between drinking coffee and taking green coffee supplements is the concentration. Green coffee extract products on the market typically offer 800mg of Chlorogenic Acid and recommended daily doses can equal or exceed 1,600mg. According to research published by Oregon State University, an average cup of coffee can contain anywhere between 70 and 350mg of Chlorogenic Acid so it would not be possible to consume the high doses offered by supplements without feeling the effects of caffeine overdose (agitation, muscle shakes, nausea and laxative effects). Decaffeinated coffee also loses a lot of its natural Chlorogenic Acid during the decaffeination process.
Green Coffee As An Antioxidant
“Antioxidant” has become a bit of a buzz-word in recent years. In simple terms, an antioxidant is any molecule that inhibits the oxidation process. Oxidation naturally occurs in the body and produces “free radicals’, which can then produce chain reactions that later cause cell damage. Oxidation is equal parts beneficial and detrimental to our bodies and therefore it is vital that we have a good level of antioxidants present in our systems to keep the process in balance. One of the most common antioxidants is Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), a compound found in many foods. The Chlorogenic Acid in green coffee diets is also an antioxidant and can help to reduce free radicals in the body. There is no evidence to suggest that Chlorogenic Acid is more or less effective as an antioxidant than Vitamin C.
Final Verdict: Does The Green Coffee Diet Work?
To conclude, there are several known compounds found in coffee seeds (namely Chlorogenic Acid and caffeine) that have proven effects on our bodies, both positive and negative. Coffee can help regulate blood sugar and reduce blood pressure. When consumed in moderation, a regular cup of coffee offers the same benefits as green coffee. Similarly, other antioxidants and natural products (such as green tea) offer the same free-radical-reducing properties as Chlorogenic Acid. Green coffee diets typically involve very high doses of Chlorogenic Acid that may or may not be more effective at reducing blood pressure or regulating blood sugar than regular coffee. A strong medical link between green coffee and weight loss is yet to be established. It is important to be careful when using any supplements or making drastic changes to a regular diet, especially if suffering from any medical conditions. If in doubt, seek medical advice from your physician before introducing supplements. When it comes to losing weight and toning up, a green coffee diet will work best in conjunction with a well-balanced eating plan, rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, and a healthy schedule of regular exercise.