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Researchers find coffee-drinking genes

12th April 2011

Researchers have pinpointed a pair of related genes that affect how quickly people metabolise caffeine.

Coffee

Neil Caporaso, a researcher at the National Cancer Institute in the US and one of the authors of the study, said that he felt the story of how genetics influenced people's disposition to high caffeine intake, as well as alcohol and tobacco use, was amazing.

For the study, the researchers relied on data gathered from five other different US studies.

The total number of study subjects exceeded 47,000 people.

The researchers spent nearly two decades analysing the data, forming conclusions about people's average coffee consumption, average chocolate consumption, average cola consumption, and other tallies.

While the study subjects got caffeine from a variety of sources, 80% of the caffeine consumed in study came from coffee.

Based on genetic information about the study subjects, the researchers, concluded that the people who drank the most coffee had similar versions of the CYP1A2 and AHR genes.

On average, people with either of these two versions of the genes drank an extra 40 mg of caffeine, compared to people whose versions of the genes seemed to predispose them against drinking coffee.

Caporaso said that while there were hundreds of genes known for specific medical conditions, people knew very little about the way genetics and dietary consumption influenced each other.

He said that his team's recent finding market the first time scientists could spot specific genes that influenced people's caffeine intake.

John Mulvihill, a researcher at the University of Oklahoma who was not involved in the study, said that the finding would help doctors build a picture for personalised medicine, since the genes implicated in caffeine metabolism were also implicated in metabolising other substances.

Caporaso said he believed the finding showed that caffeine consumption, far from being random, was like a genetic hand of cards people were dealt.

He said doctors would now be able to group people into two camps based on the way they metabolised caffeiene.

Study author Marilyn Cornelis, of the Harvard School of Public Health, said that while most doctors assumed people's responses to caffeine tended to be different, most studies about caffeine intake did not focus on genetics.

Caffeine affects people's sleep patterns, mental and physical performance, and people's levels of energy, including mood.


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