How do your genes influence your coffee habits?

Wednesday, 05 May, 2021

How do your genes influence your coffee habits?

In a study of almost 400,000 people, University of South Australia (UniSA) researchers have found causal evidence that our genetics actively regulate the amount of coffee we drink, based on our cardio health.

In partnership with the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), and using data from the UK Biobank, the researchers examined the habitual coffee consumption of 390,435 people, comparing this with baseline levels of systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and baseline heart rate.

The team found that people with high blood pressure, angina and arrythmia were more likely to drink less coffee, decaffeinated coffee or avoid coffee altogether compared to those without such symptoms — and that this was based on genetics. Their results were published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

“People drink coffee for all sorts of reasons — as a pick-me-up when they’re feeling tired, because it tastes good or simply because it’s part of their daily routine,” said lead researcher Professor Elina Hyppönen, Director of UniSA’s Australian Centre for Precision Health.

“But what we don’t recognise is that people subconsciously self-regulate safe levels of caffeine based on how high their blood pressure is, and this is likely a result of a protective genetic mechanism.

“What this means is that someone who drinks a lot of coffee is likely more genetically tolerant of caffeine, as compared to someone who drinks very little.

“Conversely, a non-coffee drinker, or someone who drinks decaffeinated coffee, is more likely prone to the adverse effects of caffeine, and more susceptible to high blood pressure.”

How much coffee we drink is therefore likely to be an indicator of our cardio health, Prof Hyppönen said, with our genetics actively regulating the amount of coffee we drink and protect us from consuming too much.

“Whether we drink a lot of coffee, a little or avoid caffeine altogether, this study shows that genetics are guiding our decisions to protect our cardio health,” Prof Hyppönen said.

“If your body is telling you not to drink that extra cup of coffee, there’s likely a reason why. Listen to your body — it’s more in tune with ... your health than you may think.”

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