As part of an international study, researchers from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) have identified a gene that plays a role in influencing how much coffee people drink.
Dr Enda Byrne from QIMR said that coffee is the most popular beverage in the world and the study has shown there is a small genetic variant in the population that determines how people react to coffee and therefore explains why some people will consume coffee at higher levels and why others won’t drink it at all.
”Our study found coffee consumption is not only influenced by genes, but caffeine can also affect the expression of genes,” Dr Byrne said.
“With caffeine impacting gene expression, we believe that caffeine then influences chemical pathways in the body.
“We also found a link between caffeine genes and other complex conditions, such as hypertension and Parkinson’s disease.
“Our study showed there were changes in the expression of genes previously linked to Parkinson’s disease after exposure to caffeine. This follows previous studies that have shown caffeine to be protective against Parkinson’s disease.
“While this finding relates directly to coffee consumption, it provides another small piece of the puzzle and could lead to further discoveries around the affect of caffeine on a range of complex disorders.”
QIMR worked closely with researchers from the Erasmus University Medical Centre in the Netherlands and looked at genes across the entire human genome of over 18,000 participants.
“In the Genetic Epidemiology Lab at QIMR, we are constantly looking at small genetic changes that increase disease risk. We often find interesting genetic variants, such as this coffee consumption gene, during our investigations,” Dr Byrne said.
“This study would not have been possible without the information collected from thousands of identical and non-identical twins taking part in the QTwin study.
“By comparing data from identical and non-identical twins we can establish how much of who we are is determined by our genes and how much is influenced by environment.
“Twins help us understand how small genetic changes can have large impacts on our health.”
If you are a twin and would like to be a part of studies like these, please visit http://www.qtwin.org.au/ or free-call 1800 257 179.
The paper has been published in Molecular Psychiatry. The paper is available online at: http://www.nature.com/mp.