Health status dictates desire for coffee

3rd May 2021 | Eativity editors

Whether you’re the double espresso type or prefer a weak and milky cappuccino, your regular coffee order could be telling you more about your health than you realise.

In a world-first study of almost 400,000 people, University of South Australia researchers have found genetic evidence that cardiovascular health – as reflected in blood pressure and heart rate – influences people’s coffee consumption.

Health status dictates desire for coffee
Don’t want that extra cup? Your genes might be giving you a nudge.

A protective mechanism

Conducted with the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, the study found that people with high blood pressure, angina (chest pain) and arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) were more likely to drink less coffee, drink decaf or avoid coffee altogether compared to those without these symptoms. They also found this is based on genetics.

Lead researcher and Director of UniSA’s Australian Centre for Precision Health, Professor Elina Hyppönen, says it’s a positive finding. It shows our genetics actively regulate the amount of coffee we drink and protect us from consuming too much.

“People drink coffee for all sorts of reasons,” she says. “As a pick-me-up when they’re tired, because it tastes good, or simply because it’s part of their daily routine. But what we don’t recognise is that people subconsciously self-regulate safe levels of caffeine based on how high their blood pressure is. This is likely a result of a protective genetic mechanism.”

Health status dictates desire for coffee
Whether you like an extra shot, prefer it extra hot or choose a cold brew, most Aussies like at least one cup a day.

Pressure points

What this means is that someone who drinks a lot of coffee is likely more genetically tolerant of caffeine, as compared to someone who drinks very little. Conversely, a non-coffee drinker or someone who drinks decaf is more likely prone to the adverse effects of caffeine. They’re also more susceptible to high blood pressure.

In Australia, one in four men and one in five women suffer from high blood pressure. The condition is a risk factor for many chronic health conditions. This includes stroke, heart disease, heart failure and chronic kidney disease.

Professor Hyppönen says how much coffee we drink is likely to be an indicator of our cardio health. “Whether we drink a lot of coffee, a little, or avoid caffeine altogether, this study shows that genetics are guiding our decisions to protect our cardio health,” she says.

“If your body is telling you not to drink that extra cup, there’s likely a reason why. Listen to your body; it’s more in tune with your health than you may think.”