Is Caffeine Good or Bad? How You Handle Coffee Depends on Your Genes

There's been much debate whether caffeine is a good or bad nutrient. The answer depends on your genes

Credit: Flickr/Ahmed Rabea

Caffeine can be good for you, if you can metabolize it properly

Like many people, I love coffee; rich, dark, bold tasting, and fully caffeinated

My wife and I love it so much that last Christmas our gift to each other was a high-end Swiss-made coffee machine. And it’s brought us pleasure every day.

But many people also question whether caffeine is good for you.

Research has been contradictory with different studies showing both positive and negative effects.

Positive Effects of Caffeine

Caffeine can improve athletic performance especially with endurance sports.

In addition, coffee has antioxidant properties which can help protect your cells from damage.

Negative Effects of Caffeine

While it can provide some benefits, caffeine is addictive and can interfere with your sleep.

Caffeine can also increase the production of stomach acid causing upset stomach, acid reflux or gastrointestinal distress.

Why Caffeine Has Different Effects on Different People

A University of Toronto study published in the October issue of the journal Genes & Nutrition explained why caffeine has different effects on different people.

The researchers found there is a gene in the liver that makes a specific enzyme necessary to metabolize caffeine. (For extra credit, the enzyme is called CYP1A2, so you can wow your latte guzzling buddies at the next cafe get together.)

Genetic variations in this enzyme allow some people to break down caffeine quickly, while others have the variant that breaks down caffeine slowly.

If you have the fast enzyme you could see health benefits from drinking 1 – 3 cups of coffee per day.

If, however, you lost the genetic lottery and got the slow enzyme, you could see health problems from the same amount of coffee.

How do you know which gene you have without needing expensive and time-consuming genetic testing?

Simple. If you can drink a cup of coffee without getting too wired or jittery you most likely have the fast enzyme. On the other hand, if a cup of coffee cranks you up and causes you any GI or stomach distress, you probably have the slow gene, so be careful of your caffeine intake.

Best Coffee in Vancouver

My health tip of the week is for you coffee lovers. If you’re going to drink it, do yourself a favour and get the good stuff.

Go to Milano Coffee at 156 West 8th Avenue. It’s the best coffee in Vancouver. I know there are many great coffee shops in town and I’ve tried many of them. None of them are as good as the coffees you’ll find at Milano.

And here’s some useful info in case you need to justify your coffee break.