• Siri DeMarche

Clarifying the Caffeinated Coffee Conundrum

*As always, scroll to the very bottom for a TLDR synopsis*


I wrote a blog, The Dangers of Mold Consumption, debunking the cause of many symptoms associated with the consumption of caffeinated coffee. However, whether coffee itself (regardless of its purity) is good or bad for us is an entirely separate issue and one that seems to have equal validations on both sides of the argument. Hopefully this post will clear up the coffee/caffeine conundrum...or make things more complicated :) And while over 60 different plants contain caffeine, for the purposes of this article, the main focus is on coffee.


Is coffee with caffeine good or bad for us? The answer is not so clear cut as "yes" or "no," much to the grievance of our fellow addicts out there. The answer is, it depends. It depends on you- at a genetic level. While there is a ton of research on coffee and tea, many of the studies detailing the benefits of caffeine, and whether it is anti-inflammatory or not, directly contract one another :/. In order to better understand whether you should or should not consume caffeine, we must look at the relationship between caffeine and inflammation in the body. But to do this, we must first understand how caffeine interacts with our bodies.


Caffeine effects the body in many more ways than one, but is best known for how it interacts with a group of receptors, called the adenosine receptors. Through its interaction with these receptors, caffeine effects brain functions such as sleep, cognition, learning, and memory. Caffeine attaches to adenosine receptors and prevents adenosine (the neurochemical for making you sleepy) from doing its job. Consequently, you feel more alert and awake. Some studies suggest that blocking adenosine may also block certain pathways that produce inflammatory molecules. So now the question is, does caffeine reduce inflammation?


Research shows that caffeine can have either an inflammatory or anti-inflammatory affect...depending on the person drinking the coffee.

Case in point, a 2019 systematic review evaluating the effects of caffeine on inflammatory markers showed that interleukin 6 (a common inflammatory marker) was increased by caffeine in three out of five studies. Conversely, one out of three trials found that that caffeine decreased C-reactive protein levels. Thus the authors concluded that, "the pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory responses to caffeine point to its complex effects on the inflammatory response."


Now the question is... why does caffeine seem to effect everyone so differently? There are a few reasons for this (like liver function, gut, and mental health status), but a large part of the answer depends on our individual DNA- and more specifically, on the gene CYP1A2. CYP1A2 is known as the "caffeine gene" and determines the rate at which we metabolize caffeine.



We inherit one copy of CYP1A2 from our dad and one from our mum. If you inherited two fast variants of the gene (about 40% of the population), you are a fast caffeine metabolizer. If you have one fast and one slow copy of the gene (about 45% of the population), you are a medium caffeine metabolizer. And if you have two slow copies of the gene (about 15% of the population), you are a slow metabolizer.


If you are a slow caffeine metabolizer, you are more likely to feel jittery and anxious after consuming coffee (regardless of coffee bean purity). For slow metabolizers, regular coffee consumption is associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks, and digestive disorders. However if you are a fast caffeine metabolizer, then drinking coffee is associated with a lower risk of cancer, increased longevity, and a better mood.


Is caffeinated coffee good or bad for you? Like most everything else in life, it totally depends! Whether caffeine fights or contributes to inflammation is dramatically different depending on your metabolizer status. Knowing the rate at which you metabolize caffeine can help you make more informed decisions regarding your health. Most genetic tests will tell you what variants of the CYP1A2 gene you have (like 23andMe and FitnessGenes) and from there you can infer what your metabolizer status is.


One more word on caffeine.


Caffeine is not typically consumed in isolation and any benefits pertaining to the specific type of caffeinated beverage that you are consuming can drastically vary from drink to drink. Obviously, energy drinks and sodas are no bueno. They are full of sugar, preservatives, chemicals, and artificial colors that can trigger inflammation-regardless of what kind of caffeine metabolizer you are.


On the flip side, research shows that quality coffee contains polyphenols and other anti-inflammatory compounds that protect against chronic inflammation. The same is true for different types of tea (black, green, oolong)...again keep in mind quality...with green tea containing the highest level of catechins (polyphenols with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties).


Bottom line: if you're a fast caffeine metabolizer, enjoy your fav. quality caffeinated beverages (without excessive dairy, sweeteners...) to reap the benefits of caffeine. If you are a slow caffeine metabolizer, opt for non-caffeine quality options like herbal teas, rooibos tea...etc. It's not worth the negative inflammatory effects for slow metabolizers to consume caffeine regularly.




References


Consumption of coffee or caffeine and serum concentration of inflammatory markers: A systemic review.

The clinical toxicology of caffeine: A review and case study

Caffeine and Adenosine

Adensonine and Sleep

Expression of specific inflammasome gene modules stratifies older individuals into two extreme clinical and immunological states

Coffee consumption modulates inflammatory processes in an individual fashion

For Coffee Drinkers, the Buzz May Be in Your Genes

Neuropsychiatric effects of caffeine. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment

Tea, hormone-related cancers and endogenous hormone levels. Molecular Nutrition and Food Research

Anti-Inflammatory Actions of Green Tea Catechins and Ligands of Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptors


TLDR

Why does caffeine seem to effect everyone so differently? There are a few reasons for this (like liver function, gut, and mental health status), but a large part of the answer depends on our individual DNA- and more specifically, on the gene CYP1A2. CYP1A2 is known as the "caffeine gene" and determines the rate at which we metabolize caffeine. We inherit one copy of CYP1A2 from our dad and one from our mum. If you inherited two fast variants of the gene, you are a fast caffeine metabolizer. If you have one fast and one slow copy of the gene, you are a medium caffeine metabolizer. And if you have two slow copies of the gene, you are a slow metabolizer. If you are a slow caffeine metabolizer, you are more likely to feel jittery and anxious after consuming coffee (regardless of coffee bean purity). For slow metabolizers, regular coffee consumption is associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks, and digestive disorders. However if you are a fast caffeine metabolizer, then drinking coffee is associated with a lower risk of cancer, increased longevity, and a better mood. If you're a fast caffeine metabolizer, enjoy your fav quality caffeinated beverages (without excessive dairy, sweeteners...) to reap the benefits of caffeine. If you are a slow caffeine metabolizer, opt for non-caffeine quality options like herbal teas, rooibos tea...etc. It's not worth the negative inflammatory effects for slow metabolizers to consume caffeine regularly.



Statements made on this website have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or any other medical body. I do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any illness or disease. Information is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition.





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