Caffeine intake is related to successful weight loss maintenance


The effect of caffeine intake on weight loss maintenance has not been examined in humans. We compared the daily consumption of coffee and caffeinated beverages between 494 weight loss maintainers and 2129 individuals from the general population controlling for sociodemographic variables, body mass index and physical activity level. Weight loss maintainers reported to consume significantly more cups of coffee and caffeinated beverages compared with the participants in the general population sample. Thus, consumption of caffeinated beverages might support weight loss maintenance. Further studies should investigate possible mechanisms.


Reviews and meta-analyses demonstrated that caffeine intake is associated with health promotion and a significantly lower total mortality rate.1 These effects are relevant because of the popularity of caffeine containing beverages worldwide. In addition, these benefits were shown especially for diseases of modern society, such as coronary heart disease, stroke, arrhythmia and neurodegenerative diseases.2 Furthermore, coffee and tea consumption are inversely associated with the development of metabolic syndrome and the risk of type 2 diabetes.3 There is also evidence that coffee consumers have a lower body mass index (BMI) compared with individuals who do not consume coffee and that there is a negative association between coffee consumption and body weight gain in the long term.4, 5 High caffeine intake has also been associated with weight loss.6 The latter data led us to hypothesize that caffeine intake may also have a role for successful weight loss maintenance.

Materials and methods

In a cross-sectional study, two large samples were compared. Sampling details are described elsewhere.7, 8 Successful weight loss maintainers were recruited through the German Weight Control Registry (GWCR); 494 men and women were enrolled in the registry between October 2009 and April 2011. To assess the variables used in the GWCR in a representative population sample, a population survey of German adults was conducted between May and June 2011. A total of 2286 men and women were recruited for the purpose of this study. A total of 157 individuals had to be excluded because of too many missing values, leaving 2129 participants for the analyses.

The study was approved by the Ethics Committee of the Medical School at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. All participants gave written informed consent.


Age, sex and information about living in a partnership (yes vs no), being employed (yes vs no) and having an academic degree (yes vs no) were recorded. Body height as well as current and maximum weights were assessed by self-report for calculation of BMI (kg/m2).

Consumption of coffee and caffeinated beverages (for example, sodas) was assessed by self-report as cups per day. To obtain information on physical activity (PA), the self-administered short version of the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) was used.9 The IPAQ measures the frequency (number of days during the last 7 days) and duration (hours and minutes per day) of walking, moderate-intensity PA and vigorous-intensity PA during the last week.8 From the IPAQ short form, we analyzed the following categorical activity measures: inactive, minimally active and health-enhancing PA.

Statistical analysis

Characteristics of GWCR participants and participants of the population-based survey are presented by means (±s.d.) for continuous variables and by n (%) for categorical variables. Differences between the groups were assessed by Wilcoxon two-sample tests and χ2-tests.

A binary logistic regression analysis was conducted with ‘sample’ as the dependent variable and cups of coffee or caffeinated beverages as the main independent variable. To account for possible confounding effects, the variables sex, age, employment, academic degree, partnership (yes vs no), current BMI and PA level (IPAQ) were additionally included in the regression equation. All analyses were performed using IBM SPSS statistics version (Göttingen, Germany). The level of statistical significance was set at P<0.05.


Participants in the GWCR were more often women, were slightly older, better educated, more often employed and were more often living in a partnership compared with the participants in the general population sample (Table 1).

Table 1 Characteristics of weight loss maintainers of the German Weight Control Registry and of a representative German population sample

Participants in the GWCR reported a higher maximum BMI; however, current BMI did not differ between-groups. No difference between-groups was found for the PA level.

Participants of the GWCR reported to consume significantly more cups of coffee and caffeinated beverages per day compared with the participants in the general population sample (mean: 3.83 vs 3.35; median: 4.0 vs 3.0, range: 1–7 cups in both groups). After controlling for sociodemographic variables, BMI and PA, the difference between the two groups remained significant for coffee consumption with an odds ratio of 1.18 (Table 2). In GWCR participants, percent BMI lost was not associated with cups consumed per day (r=0.06).

Table 2 Logistic regressions model comparing weight loss maintainers of the German Weight Control Registry and a representative German population sample


Weight loss maintainers reported a significantly higher consumption of coffee and caffeinated beverages compared with the general population. According to the literature, caffeine, as well as other compounds of coffee (chlorogenic acids and mannooligosaccharides), has several important metabolic effects that might explain our results.10 Overweight and obese individuals (but not normal-weight individuals) reduced energy intake in an ad libitum meal after consuming a moderate amount of coffee (2–4 cups) compared with lower or no coffee intake, suggesting a direct appetite suppressing effect.10 Furthermore, normal consumption of caffeine has shown an increase in daily energy expenditure by ~5% in lean subjects, as well as during weight loss maintenance in post-obese subjects.11 Combining exercise with caffeine supplementation resulted in significantly greater energy expenditure and fat oxidation in an ad libitum test meal compared with exercise alone.12 In a mouse model of obesity and type 2 diabetes, chronic coffee consumption delayed weight gain and improved glucose tolerance probably because of lower feeding efficiency.13

The following limitations need to be considered when interpreting our data. We did not assess nicotine consumption in the GWCR participants. It is widely known that caffeine use is highly correlated with smoking, which itself exerts a strong effect on body weight. Furthermore, cup sizes, drinking habits, such as adding milk or sugar, and preparation methods of coffee were not determined, thus impeding the estimation of the caffeine content (mg). Finally, the participants were not provided with a list of caffeinated beverages.

In summary, consumption of caffeinated beverages might support weight loss maintenance. Even though the difference between-groups was relatively small (odds ratio 1.18), it could over longer periods of time be important for weight loss maintenance. Further studies should investigate possible mechanisms using prospective designs.


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The study was supported by a grant from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF, 01GI0835) within the German Competence Network of Obesity. AH was supported by grant 01GV0601 (BMBF).

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Correspondence to D Icken.

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Icken, D., Feller, S., Engeli, S. et al. Caffeine intake is related to successful weight loss maintenance. Eur J Clin Nutr 70, 532–534 (2016).

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