Can you survive on one cup of coffee a day, or do you need to inhale a double espresso before you can contemplate leaving the house?
Does caffeine set your mind into overdrive, or do you generally feel more relaxed and alert?
Or, at a more basic level are you a coffee person or not?
Ultimately, the answer to those questions could be down to our genetic composition.
With nearly 60% of Americans admitting to have at least one cup of coffee per day, and countless people stressing that coffee is an integral part of their early morning ritual, Marilyn Cornelis looked into the facts of our long-standing relationship with coffee.
During her research, Cornelis, a nutrition scientist now affiliated with Northwestern University, found a couple of genetic indicators that appear to be linked to how people, either positively or negatively, react to coffee.
Over 120,000 coffee drinkers were analysed during the study and in total six slight genetic variations were found.
- Two genes relate to how caffeine is metabolised
- Two genes are associated with ‘reward mechanisms’ being activated due to caffeine consumption
- Two genes that regulate fat and sugar in our bloodstreams respond to caffeine
As Cornelis explained to the Innovation Hub podcast; “Those who can quickly metabolise caffeine are consuming more.”
This is because they need to “maintain that drive or that psychostimulant effect that most of us connect with caffeine.”
So if you can metabolise caffeine and are predisposed to reward mechanisms then you are more likely to naturally drink more coffee.
Conversely, if someone is feeling anxious after consuming some coffee then the likelihood is that they will cut back and drink less because of their genetic disposition.
Indeed a previous study conducted by Neil Caporaso of the National Cancer Institute in Maryland has found that there are two particular bits of our DNA that are explicitly linked with a high intake of caffeine: The AHR string helps regulate a second string, CYP1A2, which helps determine how our body’s break caffeine down.