Human Genes & Coffee Beans

Whether or not you like coffee is determined by just six genetic loci, according to the largest genetic study on the topic to date.

AsianScientist (Oct. 14, 2014) – A team of researchers, including one from The University of Western Australia (UWA), has identified the genes that determine just how much satisfaction you can get from caffeine. Six new regions of DNA (loci) associated with coffee drinking behavior are reported in the study published in Molecular Psychiatry.

The findings support the role of caffeine in promoting regular coffee consumption and may point to the molecular mechanisms that underlie why caffeine has different effects on different people. The results could also help to explain why coffee, which is a major dietary source of caffeine and among the most widely consumed beverages in the world, is implicated in a range of health conditions.

The researchers conducted a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of coffee consumption for 120,000 people of European and African-American ancestry.

“The findings highlight the properties of caffeine that give some of us the genetic propensity to consume coffee,” said Dr. Jennie Hui, author of the study and Adjunct Senior Research Fellow in UWA’s School of Population Health.

“Some of the gene regions determine the amount of coffee that makes individuals feel they are satisfied psychologically and others physiologically. What this tells us is that there may be molecular mechanism at work behind the different health and pharmacological effects of coffee and its constituents.”

The authors of the study identified two loci, near genes BDNF and SLC6A4, that potentially reduce the level of satisfaction that we get from caffeine which may in turn lead to increased consumption. Other regions near the genes POR and ABCG2 are involved in promoting the metabolism of caffeine.

They also identified loci in GCKR and near MLXIPL, genes involved in metabolism but not previously linked to either metabolism or a behavioral trait, such as coffee drinking.

The authors suggest that variations in GCKR may impact the glucose-sensing process of the brain, which may in turn influence responses to caffeine or some other component of coffee. However, further studies are required to determine the effects of these two loci on coffee drinking behavior.

The article can be found at: Cornelis et al. (2014) Genome-Wide Meta-Analysis Identifies Six Novel Loci Associated with Habitual Coffee Consumption.


Source: University of Western Australia; Photo: Susanne Nilsson/Flickr/CC.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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