Addicted to Coffee? Blame Genetics

Whenever the newest caffeine-free detox comes around or a new study about the effects of coffee surfaces, it seems as though half the women in my office have no problem giving up coffee sans any side effects or cravings, while the other half (guilty) shutters at the idea of doing the same and refuses to even try. Sound familiar? Instead of feeling somewhat guilty for a habit you just can’t kick, listen up: Your coffee addiction (or lack thereof) may be written in your DNA.

In recently published study, scientists identified and targeted a gene that may explain why some are more responsive to—and more dependent on—coffee than others, meaning this divide between those who need coffee at all times and those who can easily do without it is linked to our specific genetic makeup.  

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To come to this conclusion, researchers conducted a “genome-wide” association study where they examined markers in DNA (they asked more than 1,200 people in Italy and more than 1,700 in the Netherlands) and compared how much coffee they drank to their genetic results and identified a gene called PDSS2—the very gene that plays this role in caffeine dependency by altering the way the body metabolizes caffeine. The study found that those who possess the gene can break down coffee easier than those without it, and drink less coffee as a result.  

According to the study's authors, the gene is presumed to regulate the production of proteins that metabolize caffeine in the body. “The hypothesis is that people with higher levels of this gene are metabolizing caffeine slower, and that’s why they’re drinking less coffee,” study author Nicola Pirastu of the University of Trieste in Italy tells Time. “They need to drink it less often to still have the positive effects of caffeine, like being awake and feeling less tired.”

However, Pirastu also stresses that more research is required to fully understand the link between our genetics and our caffeine intake. For now, you can find us at Starbucks—after all, our bodies need it, right?  

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