Java Junkies May Be Genetically Predisposed to Love Caffeine

By Emily Murray

While sipping on my morning latte, I scanned the headlines when the word “caffeine” of course caught my eye. A new study has proven that while learning to love the distinctive flavor of coffee may be an acquired taste, loving the buzz of  caffeine may be something we’ve inherited. After taking a brief inventory of my immediate family tree, I seem to have all the proof I need without the scientific research…okay, well I was still curious about the study too. Think maybe your coffee habits are a reflection of your busy schedule or sleepless nights? Think again…

According to the new study  published in PLoS Genetics and a recent article on ABC News, two particular variations of genes seem to have a bearing on caffeine habits and the body’s ability to metabolize it.

Those of us who do drink coffee can likely rattle off the  benefits we get from that warm cup of java without a second thought. It’s even typical to get the response “I didn’t get my morning cup of coffee,” when you ask a frazzled coworker what the problem is. While part of it is routine (no one likes to break out of one, especially on a work day), the effects of the drug itself may be part of what keeps the 9 out of 10 adults drinking caffeine regularly and 8 out of 10 of caffeine consumers drinking coffee specifically. These were two of the statistics published in the study. For those in the coffee house business, this is terrific news and the fact that there is now some merit to the idea of a genetic predisposition to caffeine, it’s likely one business that will remain in high-demand for decades to come.

This conclusion was reached after more than 47,000 middle-aged caffeine consuming Americans were observed and had their genes studied by Harvard researchers. These adults were placed in two main categories – “low consumption gene” and “high consumption gene.” Those with the “high consumption” variant drank an average of 40 mg more caffeine than those with the “low consumption” gene.

While this type of finding may lead some to think, “so what?” it’s actually a landmark study as it’s one of the few to discover a link between dietary habits and genetics. Additionally, as mentioned in both the study and the ABC article, this information can also carry over into the study of the physical effects of caffeine on the mind and body and why people have different reactions to the stimulant. Chances are you probably know a friend or coworker who seems to fly off the handle with the smallest amount of coffee and others who continually keep their mug full from 9 to 5. It may come down to how we metabolize it.

As quoted in the article , Dr. Michael Watson, executive director of the American College of Medical Genetics said, “We’re able to look at the variations and the way people deal with drugs and the way they metabolize them.” Basically, the more we can find out about how each particular person reacts to certain things and why this reaction occurs, this personalized form of care will be one that is even more closely catered to the individual needs of the patient.