Caffeinated or Decaffeinated? The Effect That Coffee Has on our Body is Influenced by a Gene
The intensities of caffeine responses vary, causing an energy “rush” in some, tachycardia and insomnia in others, or no effect at all, and guess what, genetics is involved.
Coffee, that infusion that awakens the senses and energizes the mornings, has a special place in the lives of millions of people around the world. However, the way each individual experiences the effects of caffeine can vary significantly.
Some find a surge of energy and concentration, while others may feel nervous or experience difficulty falling asleep after consuming it.
And what do you think? As in so many other metabolic processes in which our body processes certain compounds, a gene has been found that fulfills an important function and that would be responsible - although not the only factor - in how our body reacts to caffeine consumption.
The caffeine gene
From the shaking of a cup of espresso to the tranquility of a decaffeinated coffee, the coffee experience is completely different for each person.
Several studies have tried to answer whether this diversity in the response to caffeine has to do with our DNA. It has been shown that there is a particular gene, named as CYP1A2, better known as the caffeine gene, which would be the genetic influence on the response to, for example, coffee.
"Fast" variant and "slow" variant, which determines the effect
For a decade, information has begun to be studied and collected about this gene, including research as relevant as that of Dr. Ahmed El-Sohemy, a professor in the department of nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto.
In his studies on the risk of a myocardial infarction and its relationship with the CYP1A2 genotype and coffee consumption, he observed that this risk increased in slow metabolizers.
In simple words, it goes more or less like this. This "caffeine gene" controls the expression of an enzyme - that is, a molecule in our body that helps in certain chemical reactions -, responsible for breaking down caffeine in the body.
There are two variants of the gene, one "fast" and one "slow". Those with two copies of the "fast" variant are considered fast metabolizers of caffeine, while those who have one or two copies of the "slow" variant are slow metabolizers.
Not everything is in the genes.
It is important to remember that genetics is not the only factor at play. Personal preferences, individual tolerance and other life habits also play a crucial role in how we interact with coffee.
On the other hand, an article from the National Institute of Health (NIH) explains that a molecule called adenosine, which is naturally produced by the body, is responsible for acting on certain receptors in the brain to induce sleep.
"Caffeine prevents adenosine from acting on brain cells. This prevents him from feeling drowsy," explains Dr. Sergi Ferre, a NIH brain scientist in the article.
Let's enjoy a delicious cup of coffee responsibly
Although surely more studies of this type will continue to be developed, the relationship between genes and the response to coffee adds a fascinating layer to the complex experience of enjoying this popular drink.
Whatever you prefer, listen to your body and discover how your genes silently but significantly influence the effect that coffee has on you, transforming each cup into a unique and personal experience.