If you feel like your love of coffee is in your blood, you may just be right. Well, not your blood, but your genes, which is probably better than coffee-blood, that doesn’t sound healthy. A new study finds that your genes may determine whether you favor black coffee or sweeter coffee drinks.
This isn’t the first time a study has found a link between our genes and coffee consumption. Earlier this year researchers in Australia found a person’s genes may be a determining factor in how much coffee they consume each day. This most recent study, published recently in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers sought to find how genetic variants associated with caffeine sensitivity and bitter taste perception affected and individual’s coffee proclivities.
Co-authors Marilyn C. Cornelis of the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University and Rob M. van Dam of the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University initially hypothesized that the gene associated with perceiving bitterness would be more indicative of coffee preference over the gene dealing with caffeine sensitivity. Then, after examining participants in the UK Biobank, the Nurses’ Health Study, and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, researchers found the opposite to be true.
They found that, contrary to their initial hypothesis, the gene affecting caffeine sensitivity “was more strongly associated with coffee taste preferences than with… bitter taste perception.” This, according to Cornelis, appears to imply a psychological association with the effects of coffee consumption. Per WTTW:
“Our interpretation is these people equate caffeine’s natural bitterness with a psycho-stimulation effect. They learn to associate bitterness with caffeine and the boost they feel. We are seeing a learned effect,” Cornelis continued. “When they think of caffeine, they think of a bitter taste, so they enjoy dark coffee and, likewise, dark chocolate.”
In human language, people associate the buzzy affects of caffeine with bitterness, so they are willing to “overcome an innate aversion to bitter flavors” because they believe they’ll make for a better jolt of energy.
While yes, your love of filter coffee may be determined by your genetic makeup, it may not be the flavor of the brew, but its caffeine. The good news is, coffee doesn’t actually have to be bitter. So even if you don’t have the genes predisposing you to coffee drinking, you can still enjoy a wonderfully sweet, balanced cup thanks to, y’know, good coffee.