Are you confused about coffee? Very reputable older research shows a strong correlation between coffee consumption and risk of heart attack. But newer, also reputable, research finds that coffee boosts health and longevity. How can the research be so contradictory? If caffeine is the most consumed drug on the planet and coffee is a religion to so many of us, shouldn't we be able to answer the question of whether or not it's the cause or the cure of all our ills?
My personal catch phrase has become, "There's a gene for that!" (Yes, I know how geeky that sounds.) And this has never been more true than with coffee. The answer to why the research around coffee conflicts to such a degree is because it depends entirely on what version of the CYP1A2 gene you have. This gene is responsible for producing a key detoxification enzyme in the liver, which just so happens to be the enzyme responsible for breaking down caffeine.
See, here's the thing about coffee. Caffeine is not a health food. There's just no getting around this. It provides us with 'energy' by forcing our adrenal glands to release stress hormones (not good). It's a diuretic and contributes to dehydration. In some people (depending on your genes), it affects bone mineral density (super not good). It reduces kidney function (eek!). It increases fasting glucose levels, raises blood pressure, and is very addictive. And it can cause heart attacks. (Yes, it can also temporarily boost athletic performance, but at what cost?)
The health-boosting properties in coffee come not from the caffeine but from the other compounds in the bean, such a some really potent polyphenols. And this is where that liver enzyme comes in. If you have a naturally super-fast enzyme, you'll break down the caffeine so quickly that the negative properties don't have much time to take effect, but all the wonderful compounds in the coffee bean stick around and do have time to work their magic. This is why some research shows that coffee promotes health and longevity while other research shows that it causes heart attacks.
Which applies to you? If you have your genetic results, look for SNP rs762551 and check if you are homozygous (A;A). This means that you're in the lucky group that does potentially receive health benefits from drinking coffee. But it needs to be good-quality, real coffee from freshly ground beans. Not of the dehydrated instant stuff! And also take into consideration other questions, too--do you have challenges with blood sugar balancing or insulin resistance? Are you under a lot of stress already? Coffee may not be a great choice for you, then.
But what about the other poor souls for whom coffee isn't healthy at all? Are you doomed? Not at all! If you enjoy coffee and want to continue drinking it, choose water-decaffeinated (not chemically-decaffeinated) freshly ground beans. You'll get the health benefits from the coffee bean without the caffeine downsides.
There's one more important coffee question that applies to everyone, however--what are you putting in your coffee? Sugar? Sweeteners? Dairy or soy milk? Stick with pure nut milk and skip the dairy, soy, sugar, sweeteners, and fancy syrups. The majority of the world's population doesn't produce the enzyme to digest dairy (there's a gene for that!), soy is not good for a whole host of reasons, and sugars and sweeteners... Well, don't even get me started on that subject.
If you're curious to find out what secrets to optimal health your genes hold, check out my Revive Kick-Start Programme!
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