The literature is inconsistent as to how coffee affects metabolic syndrome (MetS), and which bioactive compounds are responsible for its metabolic effects. This study aimed to evaluate the effects of unfiltered coffee on diet-induced MetS and investigate whether or not phenolic acids and trigonelline are the main bioactive compounds in coffee. Twenty-four male Sprague‒Dawley rats were fed a high-fat (35% W/W) diet plus 20% W/W fructose in drinking water for 14 weeks, and were randomized into three groups: control, coffee, or nutraceuticals (5-O-caffeoylquinic acid, caffeic acid, and trigonelline). Coffee or nutraceuticals were provided in drinking water at a dosage equal to 4 cups/day in a human. Compared to the controls, total food intake (p = 0.023) and mean body weight at endpoint (p = 0.016) and estimated average plasma glucose (p = 0.041) were lower only in the coffee group. Surrogate measures of insulin resistance including the overall fasting insulin (p = 0.010), endpoint HOMA-IR (p = 0.022), and oral glucose tolerance (p = 0.029) were improved in the coffee group. Circulating triglyceride levels were lower (p = 0.010), and histopathological and quantitative (p = 0.010) measurements indicated lower grades of liver steatosis compared to controls after long-term coffee consumption. In conclusion, a combination of phenolic acids and trigonelline was not as effective as coffee per se in improving the components of the MetS. This points to the role of other coffee chemicals and a potential synergism between compounds.
Keywords: caffeic acid; carbon-13 magnetic resonance spectroscopy; chlorogenic acid; coffee; insulin resistance; metabolic syndrome x; non-alcoholic fatty liver disease; phytotherapy; trigonelline.