Study links caffeine addiction with DNA

Alyssa Moody | Contributor

Attention coffee lovers: don’t worry, your need for caffeine isn’t your fault. A team of esteemed biological scientists recently published a study in PLoS Genetics that links caffeine addiction to one’s genetic makeup. The study found that people who carry a specific version of two genes involved with the breakdown of chemicals in the liver, (CYP1A2 and AHR,) will crave and consume more caffeine than those who do not posses the genes.

“We know caffeine had an inherited component but for the first time we know specifically the major genes involved,” Dr. Neil Caporaso, a senior investigator in the study, told ABC News. “Genetic studies have identified many associations with diseases, but very few for diet agents.”

The researchers arrived at these findings by comparing the genetic makeup and caffeine consumption habits of more than 47,000 American men and women. The researchers stated that caffeine “is the most widely consumed psychoactive substance in the world,” with nearly nine out of 10 adults eating or drinking it regularly. More than 80% of the caffeine participants consumed throughout the study was in the form of coffee.

The study determined that one of the primary reasons why some people drink more caffeine than others is that the heavy drinkers are better able to tolerate it as a result of their predetermined genetic makeup. While both the brain and the liver effect caffeine consumption, “It turns out that your liver, more than your brain, determines daily caffeine intake,” Caporaso said.

Researchers said the findings will now be used as a way to examine the stimulant’s positive and negative effects on the human body. If consumed in moderation, caffeine could counter cognitive decline, but conversely, too much caffeine can impair cognition, permanently disrupt sleeping patterns, and even cause hallucinations in extreme cases.

“This is one of the most obvious examples of where we’re going with personalized medicine,” said Dr. Michael Watson, executive director of the American College of Medical Genetics told ABC. “Once we figure it out, a person’s primary care physician will use the information with their patients.”

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