Your coffee habit has a genetic explanation

August 26, 2016 Providence Health Team

Why do some people – and you know who you are – drink so much coffee? The answer may be in your genes.

New research into coffee-drinking habits among people in Italy and the Netherlands has found a certain gene apparently affects the way a body metabolizes coffee.  People with higher levels of the PDSS2 gene apparently absorb caffeine more slowly than others, so they tend to drink less coffee. People with lower expressions of the gene tend to drink more.

As the researchers, writing in the journal Scientific Reports, put it: “There is an inverse correlation between PDSS2 expression and coffee consumption.”

The genetics of coffee drinking

The researchers said they wanted to explore whether genetics could explain differences in coffee consumption habits. It’s an important question, they said, because coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world and a primary source of caffeine. For those reasons, they said, its health and economic effects are important.

Investigators used what is called a genome-wide association study of two distinct Italian populations and compared the results with the study of a population in the Netherlands. Such a study scans biomarkers across full sets of DNA to find variations associated with a disease, or in this case, coffee drinking.

Their modeling found the association between levels of PDSS2 and how much coffee people drink.

Coffee and health

Because coffee is so widely consumed, many studies have examined the ways it may affect your health. But the studies are hardly unanimous.

A study earlier this year out of Harvard found that coffee may help you live longer.

Another study focused on the effects of very hot drinks, finding they “probably” cause cancer.

The National Institutes of Health has compiled many studies that relate to the effects of coffee and caffeine on health. For example, the 2011 paper “Coffee and its consumption: Benefits and risks” discusses research that showed coffee drinking was inversely correlated – meaning that it may have beneficial effects – with diabetes, various cancers, and Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. But the paper also noted it may pose a threat to coronary health and may interfere with postmenopausal hormones.

It probably wouldn’t surprise you to know that European coffee manufacturers like illy, Lavazza, Tchibo and Nestle sponsor the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee, which runs the Coffee & Health website.

Coffee and you

Every person is different and coffee-drinking habits vary widely. If you’re finding that you need coffee to stay awake, or it makes you feel fatigued, you should discuss your habit with your health care provider.

If you don’t have one, use our multistate directory to find a Providence health care provider in your area.

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