Caffeine addict? it’s in your genes

2014-10-12 15:01

The next time you rush to judge a colleague, friend or relative who’s pouring their sixth cup of coffee for the day, just remember it’s in their genes.

New research suggests that some people can’t control their caffeine cravings because a set of genes determines how much satisfaction they get from a good cup of java.

In a study published in the Molecular Psychiatry Journal this week, researchers from the University of Western Australia (UWA) identify six genes associated with coffee-drinking behaviour.

Two genes have the potential to reduce the level of satisfaction one gets from caffeine and another two are used to promote the metabolism of caffeine.

The final two, discovered for the first time in this study, are linked to metabolism. But they are also involved in regulating cholesterol levels and sugar in the blood.

While researchers say the newly discovered genes need to be explored further, they believe their initial findings go a long way in explaining why some people are satisfied with a cup or two of coffee each day while others crave more.

The researchers analysed the DNA of 120?000 coffee drinkers of European and African-American ancestry.

Dr Jennie Hui, the director of the Busselton Health Study Laboratory at UWA, says of the team’s findings: “There may be a molecular mechanism at work behind the different health and pharmacological effects of coffee and its constituents.

“Some of the gene regions determine the amount of coffee that makes individuals feel they are satisfied psychologically.”

Other gene regions determine the physiological satisfaction, according to Hui.Joburg-based dietician Lynn Odendaal has read the study’s abstracts and says the findings “add to the long-suggested health benefits of coffee”.

She added: “The two genetic variants not associated with caffeine or metabolism are linked to sugar and fats in the blood.”

Several previous studies have found drinking coffee reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, dementia, and heart and Parkinson’s diseases.

But don’t race to suppress your coffee genes or celebrate cravings: “fancy coffees” like lattes and frappucinos can do more harm than good.

“A large latte contains almost a third of the daily recommended fat intake, while mocha and frappucino are the worst of them all as they have high sugar and fat content.

“Espresso is the best option because it’s low in calories,” said Odendaal.

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