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Is the Craving for Coffee Embedded in our Genes?

Researchers find a gene that appears to curb coffee consumption

People with a DNA variation in a gene called PDSS2 tend to drink fewer cups of coffee, according to a study conducted at the Universities of Edinburgh and Trieste, the Burlo Garofolo Pediatric Institute in Italy, the Erasmus Medical Center, and PolyOmica, a data analysis company based in Groningen, the Netherlands.

The findings suggest that the gene reduces the ability of cells to breakdown caffeine, causing it to stay in the body for longer, says a University of Edinburgh statement about the project.

This means that a person with the genetic variation would not need to consume as much coffee to get the same caffeine hit, the team says.

“The findings add to previous studies that have identified genes linked to coffee habits and shed new light on the biological mechanisms of caffeine metabolism,” the news statement explained.


Researchers looked at genetic information from 370 people living in a small village in south Italy and 843 people from six villages in north-east Italy.

Each of the study participants was asked to complete a survey that included a question about how many cups of coffee they drank each day.

The team found that people with the DNA variation in PDSS2 tended to consume fewer cups of coffee than people without the variation. The effect was equivalent to around one fewer cup of coffee per day on average.

The researchers replicated the study in a group of 1731 people from the Netherlands. The result was similar but the effect of the gene on the number of cups of coffee consumed was slightly lower.

This could be because of the different styles of coffee that are drunk in the two countries, the researchers say. In Italy, people tend to drink smaller cups such as espresso whereas in the Netherlands the preference is towards larger cups that contain more caffeine overall.

Researchers from the Italian coffee company Illy also participated in the project though the company did not offer financial support. The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Dr Nicola Pirastu, a Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Edinburgh’s Usher Institute, said: “The results of our study add to existing research suggesting that our drive to drink coffee may be embedded in our genes. We need to do larger studies to confirm the discovery and also to clarify the biological link between PDSS2 and coffee consumption.”

Posted from materials provided by the University of Edinburgh

12418031_10153900711084116_8462971761216697621_nDavid Braun is director of outreach with the digital and social media team illuminating the National Geographic Society’s explorer, science, and education programs.

He edits National Geographic Voices, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society’s mission and major initiatives. Contributors include grantees and Society partners, as well as universities, foundations, interest groups, and individuals dedicated to a sustainable world. More than 50,000 readers have participated in 10,000 conversations.

Braun also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship

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  1. Burma's voice
    September 1, 2:12 am

    But how does a gene give humans a “drive” to drink coffee, when some of us (myself included) don’t even drink coffee at all? Would that mean, because I have no desire to drink coffee (don’t like taste), that I have the PDSS2 variation? I’m curious, due to the crazy passion over coffee and the exorbitant prices it fetches, did you include any non-coffee drinkers in your study? If so, what was their condition on the PDSS2 gene? Interesting study…