caffeine

The problem: Constant caffeine breaks

Solution: Do you use a few long blacks or cappuccinos combined with plenty of tea breaks to help keep you alert at the office? Your waistline may be picking up the tab – and not just if your drinks are loaded with sugars. Unfortunately, in some people caffeine can lead to hormonal changes that encourage fat storage. "When you consume caffeine, it sends a message to the pituitary gland in your brain to alert your adrenal glands to make adrenalin," says Dr Libby Weaver, author of Rushing Woman's Syndrome ($24.99, Little Green Frog Publishing). "Your body thinks it is in danger so this causes a 'fight or flight' response, which leads your blood sugar to rise to provide you with more energy and, in response, you make more insulin to deal with that elevation in blood sugar."

Care factor? "As insulin is one of our primary fat storage hormones, it will firstly convert unused glucose from your blood into glycogen and store it in your muscles, but what is left over will be converted into body fat," Weaver explains.

The fallout is higher if you drink five cups or more of coffee. At the Western Australian Institute for Medical Research, one study found that once mice were fed the equivalent of five or more cups of coffee a day, they quickly developed abnormal retention of fat in their cells and liver and showed greater resistance to insulin. In short, too much coffee ramped up their risk of weight gain and diabetes type 2.

Waist protection:
• Choose low-caffeine teas and drink more herbal teas, such as peppermint and chamomile, which are free from caffeine.
• After you've had your daily coffee, use a coffee substitute such as dandelion tea.
• Swap tea for a H20 break: You will still get the benefit of getting up from your desk and moving around, and the water will help you stay full so you snack less, but it's completely free of kilojoules and won't cause you to release any stress hormones. Start by making every second tea urge a pit stop for a glass of water instead and continue to reduce your caffeine as much as you can.

Words: Stephanie Osfield