IT’S IN YOUR GENES

CityPress - - News - ZINHLE MAPUMULO zinhle.mapumulo@city­press.co.za

The next time you rush to judge a col­league, friend or rel­a­tive who’s pour­ing their sixth cup of cof­fee for the day, just re­mem­ber it’s in their genes.

New re­search sug­gests that some peo­ple can’t con­trol their caf­feine crav­ings be­cause a set of genes de­ter­mines how much sat­is­fac­tion they get from a good cup of java.

In a study pub­lished in the Molec­u­lar Psy­chi­a­try Jour­nal this week, re­searchers from the Univer­sity of Western Aus­tralia (UWA) iden­tify six genes as­so­ci­ated with cof­fee-drink­ing be­hav­iour.

Two genes have the po­ten­tial to re­duce the level of sat­is­fac­tion one gets from caf­feine and another two are used to pro­mote the metabolism of caf­feine.

The fi­nal two, dis­cov­ered for the first time in this study, are linked to metabolism. But they are also in­volved in reg­u­lat­ing choles­terol lev­els and sugar in the blood.

While re­searchers say the newly dis­cov­ered genes need to be ex­plored fur­ther, they be­lieve their ini­tial find­ings go a long way in ex­plain­ing why some peo­ple are sat­is­fied with a cup or two of cof­fee each day while oth­ers crave more.

The re­searchers an­a­lysed the DNA of 120 000 cof­fee drinkers of Euro­pean and AfricanAmer­i­can an­ces­try.

Dr Jen­nie Hui, the di­rec­tor of the Bus­sel­ton Health Study Lab­o­ra­tory at UWA, says of the team’s find­ings: “There may be a molec­u­lar mech­a­nism at work be­hind the dif­fer­ent health and phar­ma­co­log­i­cal ef­fects of cof­fee and its con­stituents.

“Some of the gene re­gions de­ter­mine the amount of cof­fee that makes in­di­vid­u­als feel they are sat­is­fied psy­cho­log­i­cally.”

Other gene re­gions de­ter­mine the phys­i­o­log­i­cal sat­is­fac­tion, ac­cord­ing to Hui.

Joburg-based di­eti­cian Lynn Oden­daal has read the study’s ab­stracts and says the find­ings “add to the long-sug­gested health ben­e­fits of cof­fee”.

She added: “The two ge­netic vari­ants not as­so­ci­ated with caf­feine or metabolism are linked to sugar and fats in the blood.”

Sev­eral pre­vi­ous stud­ies have found drink­ing cof­fee re­duces the risk of type 2 di­a­betes, de­men­tia, and heart and Parkin­son’s dis­eases.

But don’t race to sup­press your cof­fee genes or cel­e­brate crav­ings: “fancy cof­fees” like lat­tes and frap­pu­ci­nos can do more harm than good. “A large latte con­tains almost a third of the daily rec­om­mended fat in­take, while mocha and frap­pu­cino are the worst of them all as they have high sugar and fat con­tent. “Espresso is the best op­tion be­cause it’s low in calo­ries,” said Oden­daal.

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