My genetic testing experience
I had grown up thinking that coffee, like other foods and drinks, was just a matter of preference. Little did I know that coffee drinking and genetics are actually tied together.
My first exposure to this idea was when my family and I signed up for 23 and Me. 23 and Me sends you vials to spit into and then tells you your genetic traits. Being curious and slightly nerdy people, a half dozen or so family members signed up immediately.
After some time, our results were in. It told us everything from our ancestor’s origins to risk levels for various health traits.
But, what popped out to me was that there was a gene for caffeine metabolism. Some people simply do not burn through caffeine as quickly as others. This was said to influence whether you drank coffee or not. And, if you did, to what degree.
And, sure enough, the family members with slow caffeine metabolism seemed to drink less coffee or have more control over themselves and not “need” it as much.
Where do the experts weigh in?
Time recently wrote about another coffee drinking and genetics story that was quite interesting and touched on this subject.
Time’s article mentions the PDSS2 gene. Drinking less coffee is linked to that gene as well.
Time links to a research study posted by Nature that studied 120,000 coffee drinkers. In that particular study they found six genetic markers tied to coffee drinking.
The funny thing about this story is that when I first took that 23 and Me genetic test years ago, I did not drink any coffee at the time. Then, after trying it I co-founded a coffee and snack subscription service.
But, are these genetic characteristics unchanging?
As I slowly started exposing myself to coffee, I have slowly grown and become consistent in my coffee consumption now. It’s not unusual for me to drink four cups of coffee on a work day now.
I like to think that I can stop at any time because of that coffee drinking and genetics result from 23 and Me about slow caffeine metabolism. I skip coffee most weekends now, for better or worse.
So, is are these tests rock solid evidence? It is tough to say if you ask me. Especially when you consider that some genes turn on and off based on your environment, according to multiple studies (one here).
It would be interesting to re-take that test and see if the caffeine metabolism results still matched up. Otherwise it would be a chicken and the egg kind of thing. Which parts of my life are genetic destiny, and which parts are environmental or self-determined?
In the mean time, I suppose I should not look down on those that don’t take their coffee black, or those that simply do not drink coffee. Coffee drinking and genetics are officially a thing now, after all.