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Your Coffee Drinking Habit Could be Genetic

Oct 08, 2014 07:06 PM EDT

Researchers have found that genetics can influence how people respond to caffeine, helping some develop a taste for the world's favorite dark and bitter brew.

According to a study recently published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, this is not exactly the first time that experts have theorized that there are genetic drivers behind how caffeine affects individuals, but it is certainly the first time that specific genetic variants behind caffeine responses have been identified.

"The new candidate genes are not the ones we have focused on in the past, so this is an important step forward in coffee research," Marilyn Cornelis, the lead author of the study, explained in a recent release.

According to the study, Cornelis and her colleagues performed a genome-wide meta-analysis of more than 120,000 regular American coffee drinkers of European and African ancestry.

Their analysis reportedly revealed three pairs of major gene variants that may contribute to various ways caffeine interacts with an individual's body and how a person can develop a preference for caffeine-laden products like coffee.

The genes POR and ABCG2 were found to vary from person to person and are related to caffeine metabolism. Likewise BDNF and SLC6A4 may influence the "rewarding" effects of caffeine - a mental rush of alertness and pleasure. Lastly, two genes involved in glucose and lipid metabolism - GCKR and MLXIPL - were associated for the first time with the metabolic and neurological effects of caffeine.

The authors of the study argue that the different ways these genes can be expressed from person to person can impact whether significant amounts of caffeine - associated with heavy coffee drinking - can have adverse or beneficial impacts on a person's health.

"Our findings may allow us to identify subgroups of people most likely to benefit from increasing or decreasing coffee consumption for optimal health," she explained.

Another recent study also showed how people with a "cold" personality - called alexithymia - tend to drink more coffee than people who better understand and embrace emotions. However, it remains to be seen if alexithymia is genetic or simply a quirk some people earn from their environment.


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