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Love Your Coffee? You May Have Been Born That Way

Research identifies genes linked to the body's response to caffeine in coffee

MONDAY, Oct. 13, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- People who consume large amounts of coffee may have genetics to thank for their cravings, according to a study published online Oct. 7 in Molecular Psychiatry.

Researchers have linked six genes to a person's coffee consumption. All of the genes are related to the body's response to caffeine. "These are genes that we previously would not have implicated with coffee, and they show that there is some genetic basis for our coffee consumption behavior," lead author Marilyn Cornelis, Ph.D., a research associate in nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, told HealthDay. These genes could help explain why some people enjoy coffee more than others.

Researchers discovered the six "coffee" genes after reviewing 28 previous studies on the genetic make-up of more than 120,000 coffee drinkers. They compared each person's genetics to how much coffee they said they regularly drink each day. "Out of 2.5 million variants in the genome, we found a handful that were strongly linked to coffee consumption," Cornelis said. Two of the genes are related to the way a person's body metabolizes caffeine (POR and ABCG2).

Another two genes appear linked to the "kick" that a person receives from caffeine (BDNF and SLC6A4). These genes are tied to the brain's pleasure centers, and likely influence the amount of stimulation or enjoyment that caffeine provides, Cornelis said. The final two genes (GCKR and MLXIP) "were really unexpected," Cornelis said. Those genes previously have been linked to metabolism of fats and sugars, but had not been suspected as influencing the body's response to coffee. This indicates that the genes may impact the brain process that senses blood glucose levels, which may in turn influence a person's response to caffeine.

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