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Coffee Cravings Could Be Genetic

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2016 has seen a number of studies about coffee and this week is no exception. In a new study, published this week in the journal Scientific Reports researchers are suggesting that they may have identified a gene that determines how much coffee you are likely to consume compared to others who don’t carry the gene.

Conflicting studies about the benefits/dangers of coffee this year

After tea and water, coffee is the third most consumed beverage around the world and researchers are unsure if this is a good thing or a bad thing. For most, a cup of coffee in the evening is hardly ideal as the caffeine will likely keep you up a bit. That said, many Italians insist on an espresso after dinner to “give them the energy to have a good night’s sleep.” And that’s just part of the conflicting views when it comes to coffee consumption. The American Heart Association once suggested that coffee increased your chance of a heart attack and has now backtracked on that. The World Health Organization for years called coffee “possibly” carcinogenic but now believes that it could lower your chance of getting liver cancer. These are just a few of the conflicting reports when it comes to coffee.

Let’s not get into it as if they don’t know I surely don’t. But a new study released this week has researchers reasonably sure that they have found the gene that determines how you metabolize coffee.

The authors report that among more than 1,200 people living in Italy who were involved in the study, those who possess a  genetic variant PDSS2 tend to drink one fewer cup of coffee per day then those without this deviation.

The researchers than took their study to the Netherlands and found something similar after 1731 people in the Netherlands displayed a similar reduction in coffee consumption due to the same variation.

This guy thinks the gene might determine the benefits/harm of coffee drinking

Nicola Pirastu, a geneticist from the University of Edinburgh who led the study and was the lead author believes that coffee consumption might be beneficial in some more than others. “Coffee is protective against some types of cancers, cardiovascular diseases and Parkinson’s,” said Pirastu. “Understanding what is driving its consumption may help us understand what the effects on these diseases are, and so open new lines of research.”

“The hypothesis is that people with higher levels of this gene are metabolizing caffeine slower, and that’s why they’re drinking less coffee,” he added in conversation with TIME magazine. “They need to drink it less often to still have the positive effects of caffeine, like being awake and feeling less tired.”

While the researchers believe that they have indeed isolated the gene responsible for the metabolic breakdown of coffee in some, they quickly acknowledged that they would like to follow up this report with a larger scale look.

“The results of our study add to existing research suggesting that our drive to drink coffee may be embedded in our genes,” he said in a statement that accompanied the study’s publication.

Piratsu is quick to point out that he believes the teams work with genes responsible for metabolism is not limited to coffee. “Knowing the genotype of this gene may [also] explain why people react differently to different drugs,” he says.

I don’t know if it’s my genes but I’m worthless without my first cup in the morning.

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Brendan Byrne

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