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Daily Dose

Heavy coffee drinker? Blame your genes, study suggests.


Ever wonder why you can’t get through the day without your two cups of java, while others despise the brew? A recent study led by Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital researchers found genes may be at least partly to blame.

In a giant analysis of 120,000 regular coffee drinkers from dozens of studies, scientists identified six new gene variations linked to coffee and caffeine consumption. The finding, published last Tuesday in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, could explain why a cup of coffee makes one person nauseous and jittery, while another feels energized.

It may also account for some of the health benefits — and a few of the detriments — associated with coffee consumption.


Two of the variations were identified near genes BDNF and SLC6A4, which are thought to play a role in the rewarding effects of caffeine; the others were near genes involved in glucose and fat metabolism, blood pressure regulation, and addiction. Coffee drinkers had an increased likelihood of having high blood sugar levels and high cholesterol, but were less likely to have high blood pressure than those who abstained from the beverage.

“The genes we identified were predominantly related to caffeine and its metabolism or effects elicited by caffeine,” said study leader Marilyn Cornelis, research associate in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health. “We didn’t find gene variants related to taste.” DK

Deborah Kotz can be reached at dkotz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @debkotz2.