Nutrigenomics 101: Coffee and Your Genes

Nutrigenomics 101_Coffee and Your Genes_The Health Sciences Academy

by Alejandra "Alex" Ruani — Get free science updates here.

That morning cup with its roasted-nut scent is something that many of us can’t live without – whereas others won’t even touch a drop.

Although it’s one of the world’s most popular drinks, coffee has received a lot of attention regarding its “contradictory” health risks and benefits.

Whether coffee is beneficial or not has been a subject of debate for decades.

In a sea of conflicting information, how can you know if it’s good for you – or not?

Let’s dive into new exciting discoveries to find out, including a recent mega-study!

Grab “Nutrigenomics 101: Coffee and Your Genes” below:


Download PDF NOW!


Conveniently download this 37-page science report. Contains links to extra reading materials and scientific references.

Topics covered in this report:

  1. Is coffee good for you – or not?
  2. A cup full of contradictions
  3. Works for you, but not for me
  4. Your genetics on coffee
  5. How are benefits linked to genes?
  6. Our eight coffee genes
  7. GCKR and MLXIPL (stimulation)
  8. BDNF and SLC6A4 (reward)
  9. POR and ABCG2 (metabolism)
  10. AHR and CYP1A2 (tolerance)
  11. Unravelling your genetic makeup
  12. Caffeine’s stimulating effect
  13. Fast vs. slow caffeine metabolisers
  14. Slow metabolisers and heart health
  15. The diabetes caveat
  16. The decaf mystery
  17. Caffeine content in coffee products (table)
  18. Should I take a genetic test?
  19. Tips regarding genetic testing
  20. Your key takeaways
  21. References and resources


Download PDF NOW!


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Once you've had the chance to read, I'd love to know...

How many cups of coffee do you drink each day? Do you suspect you are a "fast" or a "slow" coffee metaboliser?

Leave a comment with your answers. I'm curious to see what you share!



Do you suspect you are a "fast" or a "slow" coffee metaboliser?
Alex Ruani leads the research division at The Health Sciences Academy, where she and her team make sense of complex scientific literature and translate it into easy-to-understand practical concepts for students. She is a Harvard-trained scientific researcher who specialises in cravings and appetite neurobiology, nutrition biochemistry, and nutrigenomics. Besides investigating and teaching the latest advances in health and nutrition science, Alex makes it easier to be smarter with her free Science Catch-ups every other Thursday.
Connect with Alex via email.

Every other Thursday we share our research and actionable advice to help you and those you care about. If you enjoyed this, join our FREE updates.


  • Bhavna jaiswal

    Reply Reply May 28, 2015

    Awesome study and fact.
    Loved it.

  • Jennifer Koenig

    Reply Reply May 28, 2015

    I drink 2-4 cups of coffee on most days. I feel that I’m a “fast” coffee metabolizer.

  • Olga Maliszewska

    Reply Reply May 28, 2015

    I do not drink coffee at all. I gave it up half a year ago and believe when I say that it was the toughest decision I have made in years! I used to drink at least 3 cups a day. For me it was always a coffee time. In my family there are only coffee drinker, cup of coffee was celebrated and could not be interrupted. I had my first coffee when I was 14, it became my habit a year later. 15 years later, because of bad migraines (and coffee increases its risk; coffee amongst other things) I gave it up and here I am, half a year later, drinking my decaff from time to time, feeling better than I ever did. I believe it was worth it!

  • Sharon Byrne

    Reply Reply May 28, 2015

    I dont drink coffee at all.

  • smitha

    Reply Reply May 28, 2015

    Happy to read about my favorite drink ,I drink 3to4cups of coffee every day

  • gary

    Reply Reply May 28, 2015

    Coffee has its international fame of being good and being bad….
    i am more of the bad side….why….just listen to your body

    your body and mind tells you something is going on after drinking a coffee or 2 or more….hypertension, hyperactivity, shades of trembling in the hands, body, and more

    I used to drink lots of coffee until i started thinking about the physical effects of drinking coffee…i.e. listening to my body. Also doing the Nutritional Therapist course with the Health Science Academy.

    Top tip, listen to your body

    • Steven Parker

      Reply Reply May 28, 2015

      Yes Gary, amazing, isn’t it, how we self-modulate!

      This is the kind of education no one teaches you. For the first time I can see why there are so many contradictions out there. Thanks Alex and team for keeping me in the know!

  • Steven Parker

    Reply Reply May 28, 2015

    Eye-opening report! Of all things I never guessed coffee drinking could have anything to do with genetics!!

    I am a coffee lover and I think I’m a slow metaboliser of it!

    I’ve learnt so much from this compact PDF, and will be sharing the link to my non coffee drinkers so they understand why they may not drink a drop!

  • Emily

    Reply Reply May 28, 2015

    wow, fascinating! I think I’m a fast metaboliser. 1 cup every morning, like now as I read my science report ;)

  • DanC

    Reply Reply May 28, 2015

    Hi Alex,

    Fantastic report, still reading so will come back with my thoughts later.


  • Philip Smith

    Reply Reply May 28, 2015

    The report is very informative regarding the gene interactions and the split between effects of caffeine and the effects of other components in a cup of coffee. Also interesting that we should learn to pay more attention to what our body actually tells us about what we need rather than just being influenced by advertising and social conditioning.

  • Ryan

    Reply Reply May 28, 2015

    Great read, I definitely have a fast metabolism and sometimes feel the effects vary on my body even with the same dose on a different day.

  • slk Foundation

    Reply Reply May 28, 2015

    Interesting report on coffee , found it very good My one comment on research
    1. as per you, the DNA(aka nature) has some genomes that are sensitive to coffee As per my view, it is practice of drinking coffee over generations may have adapted the persons by developing the particular DNA
    Hope i am clear in what I am trying to say ….
    Similarly generations of alcohol consuming populations react differently to one peg while those who never had alcohol consuming habit in previous generations react differently to it ; Nature responds to nurture by developing , adpating DNA
    anyway thanks
    SLK Foundation

    • Alex

      Reply Reply May 28, 2015

      SLK – yes, you make sense to me :-) It’s thought it’s a combination of both, nature and nurture – we teach the latter (Nutrigenetics) in our Nutritional Therapist course. Nutrigenetics and nutrigenomics go hand in hand :-)

  • Nina Fowles

    Reply Reply May 28, 2015

    A very interesting study. I have drunk caffeinated coffee all my life,sometimes real coffee sometimes instant and I remember coffee being reported in the news as carcinogenic back in the 60’s. As a family we drank coffee and my Father rubbished the report as scare mongering, as was later proved.

    • Alex

      Reply Reply May 28, 2015

      Nina – ha ha I love what your father did, planting a “nocebo” effect in our heads can be more harmful than the substance itself! In any case, the cancer debate has been closed now, have a look at the link in the last bullet on page 36 :-)

  • Sophie Ash (Research Analyst)

    Reply Reply May 28, 2015

    I had a delicious decaff coffee whilst reading this :-)

    I am definitely (although I haven’t yet had any genetic testing) a slow metaboliser of caffeine so I always stick to decaff. I can usually cope with the small amount in tea but if I go to Starbucks and forget to ask for decaff I soon realise! It makes me very nauseous and shaky and reaps havoc on my digestive system!

    I really enjoyed learning about all the different genes that can influence, not only how we feel when we drink coffee, but also how much we drink! Fascinating stuff. Thanks Alex!

  • Maurice

    Reply Reply May 28, 2015

    Fast coffee metaboliser here!

    Born and raised in Holland myself, I used to be in the 10+ filtered cups per day category. Not anymore (partially because when I moved to the UK the coffee was so bad!). I now enjoy the occasional quality decaf.

    Truly fascinating how our body and our genes are linked to coffee! Alex, great report.

    P.S. The BBC also just released something on caffeine more broadly, although that’s far more generic and borders the “usual news scaremongering”

  • JoJo

    Reply Reply May 28, 2015

    Fascinating report, I don’t drink coffee myself because I am very caffeine intolerant but I come from a family of coffee addicts and they will love reading about this. I must have somehow missed out on those “fast metabolizing” genes! The report did a great job of bringing together all the different research that has been done on caffeine and coffee and summarizing it well. I learned a lot!

    • Alex

      Reply Reply May 28, 2015

      JoJo – you evolved out of it!! :-)

  • Margaret

    Reply Reply May 28, 2015

    I drink 1 – 2 cups of coffee per day

  • Marjorie

    Reply Reply May 28, 2015

    I drink one cup of coffee on Sunday morning. I drink lemon water Monday thru Saturday.

  • Mimi

    Reply Reply May 28, 2015

    I used to drink a LOT of coffee– a whole, giant pot of thick, oily coffee ever day. Sometimes more. I remember finishing my parents’ leftover cold coffee when I was a kid.
    I quit all coffee about 7-8 years ago and don’t miss it at all.
    In fact, one taste and I’m nauseated.
    About once a year I crave some milky, iced decaf but otherwise even the smell of coffee makes my stomach turn

    • Alex

      Reply Reply May 28, 2015

      Mimi – how interesting! my sister has the same, she still loves the coffee smell though :-)

  • Orsi

    Reply Reply May 28, 2015

    I am really much enjoying this course
    Now I know I am a fast metaboliser too :)

    • Alex

      Reply Reply May 28, 2015

      Orsi – I love to hear that, practical science is fun :-)

  • Dannielle

    Reply Reply May 29, 2015

    Great report, it is good to know that we can all benefit from coffee as long as we monitor our in take depending on our personal tolerance levels. Very informative!

  • Elaine

    Reply Reply May 29, 2015

    In the studies of coffee drinkers, were all drinkers non-smokers? Just curious.

    • Alex

      Reply Reply May 29, 2015

      Elaine- great question! Only a very small % of the cohort are smokers and the coffee associations are irrespective of smoking. That said the variants GCKR, MLXIPL, BDNF and CYP1A2 linked to higher coffee consumption have previously been associated with smoking initiation:

  • Elaine

    Reply Reply May 29, 2015

    Thank you, Alex. Great answer! And now for another question. In your report it states that a 150 ml cup of coffee contains 40 – 180 mg caffeine. In the coffee studies, are participants drinking the same brand/dose of coffee, and is consideration given to the amounts of cream, sugar or other additives? Seems like there can be so many variables.

  • Linda

    Reply Reply May 29, 2015

    Hi Alex
    I don’t really drink much coffee, more of a tea drinker! I probably have one cup of coffee a week, but about 20 cups of tea!!! I would hazard a guess that I am a slow caffeine metaboliser.

  • John

    Reply Reply May 31, 2015

    Interesting article, and a subject I imagine we all hear about often. I’m ‘hooked’ on 2 cups a day – before I leave the house each morning, and can honestly sat that ‘sometimes’ I feel a bit of jitters from just that amount, and ‘all the time’ if I have more – so I guess I’m a slow metabolizer.
    Most interesting part to me is that as we’re each unique, coffee is more or less beneficial to us, and that the free test ‘if you’re shaky after 2 cups, drink less’ is a good example of the wisdom of our bodies to guide us (if we’re prepared to listen :o)

  • suzanne

    Reply Reply May 31, 2015

    I wonder about the addictive qualities, the headaches we get if we stop cold turkey, the effects it has on weight control, if any, if you start your day with a coffee and a workout, that extra calorie burn within your workout I read about long ago, also we should be mindful of the junk we put in coffee. Since I xed out sugar and cream and replace with milk, I feel better about drinking so much coffee. This was a great report, I always wondered about why some people could drink it late at night and others can’t have it in the afternoon at all. Like the suggestion that with our own trial and error we are already self-regulating our java intake!

  • Beth

    Reply Reply June 1, 2015

    I absolutely love the smell of coffee but generally don’t drink much of it. I love a cup on cold days but am personally hooked on hot water and lemon!

    I am relieved to know it isn’t as bad as some people make out …although I need to avoid sweetening mine!

  • Hero

    Reply Reply June 1, 2015

    Hello Alex, Thank you for these great reports that you produce, I really enjoy reading them.

    I have a question but it not related to the report above. I hope you don’t mind.

    My questions about slow cookers. Are they good or bad?

    I love using my slow cooker, it makes my life so much easier. I prepare meals in bulk and I am good for a few days.

    But my partner thinks that they are not all that good. She thinks that cooking meat or veg in the cooker for 3-8 hours destroys all the goodness in the it.

    I was just wondering your opinion on slow cookers.

    Thank you

  • marouli

    Reply Reply June 3, 2015

    I gave up drinking coffee years ago. I would get palpitations and generally feel unwell.I now brew carob powder into a beverage. It is sweet and helps me in the late afternoon when my blood sugar has slumped and I need a pick- me- up.

  • Rayne Roberts

    Reply Reply June 15, 2015

    Alex, this update was both timely and informative. Many athletes that I work with take caffeine pre-event – I suspect because it is a cultural norm in rugby clubs as much as it is about its effectiveness as a stimulant. A proportion of players consistently feel nauseous and have GI distress even with small doses and whilst we discuss fast/slow caffeine metabolism and how to work with their genetic make up, your report explains it really well. Many thanks and I’ll look forward to improving the way I communicate this subject.

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