Edinburgh, Scotland – According to a new study, coffee addiction might be influenced by genetic, since DNA may alter how the body processes caffeine.

The research was published in the journal Scientific Reports and used researchers from Edinburgh, Trieste, and the Netherlands at Edinburgh University. Although they did not fund the work, the Italian coffee company also Illy participated in the project. The study concluded that Italians who carried a very specific variant of the PDSS2 gene consumed less coffee than those who did not have the gene.

The findings could also help frequent travelers get over their constant jetlags. Image Credit: STOCKSY/Elle

Apparently, this particular gene slows the body’s processing of the caffeine. This means that the stimulant stays longer in the blood torrent, which decreases the need for another cup.

The relation between the desire for a coffee cup and the caffeine stimulation

In previous studies, a link between the rewarding effects of caffeine and the way the body process it had already been established.

However, it is the first time that genetics have been involved. For the research, the team analyzed almost four hundred people living in southern Italy, specifically Puglia, and another nine hundred from the Friuli-Venezia region in the north-east of the country.

The genetic makeup of all participants was thoroughly researched, and it showed that the villagers who carried a particular variant of the PDSS2 gene consumed less coffee than those who have different variations of the gene.

A cup of coffee may contain the answer to many diseases

According to Nicola Pirastu, the geneticist who led the study, caffeine is beneficial, since it helps protect “against some types of cancers, cardiovascular diseases and Parkinson’s.”

For him, understanding caffeine could help scientists understand the effects of said conditions, allowing for the discovery of new forms of treatments. Not only that but the genes that process the caffeine also metabolizes certain medicines.

That is why Pirastu believes that studying the genes in-depth may help discover why some patients respond in different ways to the treatment, much like different people metabolize caffeine in a different way. This could help doctors personalize treatments and avoid overtreating their patients.

The genetic makeup explains why Italians and Dutch adore coffee

To verify the conclusions, the researchers went to the Netherlands and studied more than one thousand five hundred Dutch people.

Even though the PDSS2 gene was weaker, it was still there, which could explain why Dutch people also consume higher quantities of coffee. However, the weaker gene may have its explanation in the type of coffee preferred in each nation.

In the Netherlands people consume more filter coffee, whereas in Italy moka and espresso are the rule. Filtered coffee is served in much bigger cups, making the Dutch drink three times more caffeine per cup than Italians.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Drinking coffee can give you jetlag

A little over a year, British and American scientists carried out research, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine in which they discovered that caffeine resets the internal body clock, by preventing melatonin from rising.

By observing individual cells and exposing them to caffeine, the scientists found the stimulant would activate a “switch” contained in the cells, that delayed the production of melatonin.

By tapping the “switch”, researchers discovered the body clock disruption was weaker because the melatonin was still being produced.

This helps explain why some people have trouble sleeping if they drink coffee late in the afternoon since the caffeine equivalent of a double espresso would delay the production of melatonin by forty minutes.

If the person is also reading, or has another bright light on, the delay could extend to one hundred minutes. This makes the internal clock believe that the individual is an hour further west, generating a small jetlag.

“The effect of caffeine on sleep and wakefulness has been long established, but its impact on the underlying body clock has remained unknown” claimed Dr. John O’Neill, from the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, who also was the co-author of the study.

The internal clock in the body and its disruptions

The body clock pattern is known as “circadian rhythms.” These rhythms are controlled by a “master clock” located in the brain that governs melatonin production.

The research will be very useful in advancing the scientific knowledge regarding circadian sleep disorders, in which the sufferers have an abnormal body clock that does not follow the twenty-four-hour pattern. The findings could also help frequent travelers get over their constant jetlags.

As stated by Prof Kenneth Wright, from the University of Colorado “this is the first study to show that caffeine, the most widely used psychoactive drug in the world, has an influence on the human circadian clock. It also provides new and exciting insights into the effects of caffeine on human physiology.”

Sources: The Guardian