New study shows coffee preference regulated by genes

New study shows genes influence coffee intake for cardiovascular health, based on data from almost 400,000 individuals.

A new study about coffee preference finds that our genes regulate our coffee consumption, and also protect us from consuming too much.

The study, which looked at almost 400,000 people, appeared on March 12 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The researchers found that people with high blood pressure, angina, and arrythmia were more likely to drink less coffee or even avoid coffee altogether, compared to those without such symptoms.

Furthermore, these preferences are based on genetics. 

“People subconsciously self-regulate safe levels of caffeine based on how high their blood pressure is,” said lead author Elina Hyppönen.

This is likely a result of a protective genetic mechanism, she said.

“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,” said Hyppönen.

On the other hand, 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.”

Coffee and cardiovascular health

In Australia, one in four men, and one in five women suffer from high blood pressure.

This condition is a risk factor for many chronic health conditions including stroke, heart failure, and chronic kidney disease.

Using data from the UK Biobank, researchers examined the habitual coffee consumption of 390,435 people.

They compared this data with baseline levels of systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and baseline heart rate.

They determined causal relationships via Mendelian randomization.

Hyppönen said that how much coffee we drink is likely to be an indicator of our cardio health.

“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,” she said.

Our coffee preference says a lot about our health

Furthermore, “if your body is telling you not to drink that extra cup of coffee, there’s likely a reason why,” she said.

“Listen to your body, it’s more in tune with your health than you may think.”

At the individual level, this may help avoid potential harm that could arise from excessive coffee consumption.

At the same time, this research suggests that promoting high coffee and caffeine intake as safe or beneficial is likely to be misguided.

In fact, a more personalized approach that accounts for individual characteristics is preferable.

More coffee news:

Study: Cardiovascular symptoms affect the patterns of habitual coffee consumption
Authors: Elina Hyppönen and Ang Zhou
Published in: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Publication date: March 12, 2021
DOI: 10.1093/ajcn/nqab014
Picture: by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash