There is a lot of conflicting data on the healthfulness of coffee consumption. Will it cause toxic levels of bad cholesterol and a higher rate of miscarriage? Or will it reduce the risk of Multiple Sclerosis and help promote healthy microbial cultures in your bowels? According to an article in the New York Times, “the answer may be in [your] genes.”

The revelation stems from University of Toronto nutritional sciences professor Dr. Ahmed El-Sohemy’s research into the variants of the CYP1A2 gene. This gene controls an enzyme by the same name and in turn affects how quickly the liver metabolizes caffeine. CYP1A2 comes in two varieties: fast and slow. If you inherit two of the fast genes from your parents (we all remember our Intro Genetics course, right?), you would be considered a “fast metabolizer” and can metabolize caffeine four times quicker than your slow counterparts, those with at least one of the slow genes.

This distinction is significant. The articles notes:

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Dr. El-Sohemy and his colleagues recruited 4,000 adults, including about 2,000 who had previously had a heart attack. Then they analyzed their genes and their coffee consumption. When they looked at the entire study population, they found that consuming four or more cups of coffee per day was associated with a 36 percent increased risk of a heart attack.

But when they split the subjects into two groups – fast and slow caffeine metabolizers – they found something striking: Heavy coffee consumption only seemed to be linked to a higher likelihood of heart attacks in the slow metabolizers.

Dr. El-Sohemy went so far as to state, “When you look at the fast metabolizers, there was absolutely no increased risk.” And in fact, the fast metabolizers that drank one to three cups of coffee a day saw a drastically reduced risk of heart attack.

According to FitnessGenes – a company who for a mere $200 will analyze 41 different genes, including CYP1A2 – 40% of the world are fast metabolizers and that they experience “an immediate spike in alertness” after having a cup of coffee.

There’s a pretty good chance that if you’re reading this, you’re a fast metabolizer. We all probably started our crazy coffee journey thanks to the first quick hit of energy. We’re a self-selecting group who got hooked on the buzz early and learned to appreciate the nuance later in life. So, we cool. But if Dr. Zac’s Surefire Feel Good Genetics Test isn’t sufficient, you can always pony up the $200 and find out using “science”. Whatever.

Zac Cadwalader is the news editor at Sprudge Media Network.

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