Science and your health

That caffeine craving is in your genes

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Caffeine is the most commonly used psychoactive substance in the world and used by roughly 9 out of 10 adults. In fact many of our “green health” practitioners don’t drink coffee as they see it as an artificial stimulant and as generally not a healthy option. However, new research by Dr. Marilyn Cornelis and 30 other colleagues show that those of us who just can’t do without that caffeine buzz probably inherited the craving from our parents.

The paper entitled “Genome-Wide Meta-Analysis Identifies Regions on 7p21 (AHR) and 15q24 (CYP1A2) As Determinants of Habitual Caffeine Consumption” and published in the open-source journal PLoS analyzed the DNA and diets of 45,000 people in the United States. The paper shows that two specific genes lead to whether you get caffeine cravings or not.

The genes in question – CYPIA2 and AHR – are known to be associated with the high intake of coffee, chocolate and caffeinated drinks. The first, CYPIA2 breaks down the caffeine in the liver, while the latter regulates this breakdown.

One of the authors of the paper, Neil Caporaso spoke to the media and said, “It has always been known that the gene CYPIA2 breaks down the caffeine. But using new technology, what we showed for the first time is that it appears responsible for the inherited differences in how people drink coffee. The point is that the way we drink caffeine is not just random – it’s related to the genetic hand of cards you were dealt. “If you break it down more quickly, you require more caffeine to achieve the same ‘buzz’ or to avoid withdrawal after stopping all caffeine”, he said.

With the exception of nicotine dependency, genes that influence traits associated with dependency have been difficult to identify. The paper concludes by stating that the two genes should be further investigated “with regard to both beneficial and toxic effects of caffeine”.

Download the paper at:

Nirmal Shah


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