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Study: If your parents grew up drinking coffee, chances are you do, too

Scientists study the complex biological relationship between coffee-drinking and our genetics

By Angela Garrity, Guest blogger

Some relationships are quite complex — especially when it comes to your love (or loathe) of coffee. A scientific study says this relationship, or lack thereof, is all coded in our genes.

A dad drinks coffee with his toddler son in a coffee shop

"Quantile-specific heritability" is the phenomenon that keeps us either running back repeatedly to the coffee pot throughout the day, staying limited to “just one cup, thanks” or swearing it off completely, according to Berkeley Lab. This same marvel is also associated with cholesterol levels and body weight, two highly genetic traits, and may play a role in other traits.

One size does not fit all, naturally.

“It appears that environmental factors sort of set the groundwork in which your genes start to have an effect,” said Paul Williams, a statistician at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). “So, if your surroundings predispose you to drinking more coffee — like your coworkers or spouse drink a lot, or you live in an area with a lot of cafes — then the genes you possess that predispose you to like coffee will have a bigger impact. These two effects are synergistic.”

Coffee drinking is a quantile-specific trait, the study said, and the correlation between a parent’s coffee drinking and an offspring’s coffee-drinking becomes increasingly stronger for each offspring’s coffee consumption bracket — like zero cups a day, 1-2 cups a day, and so on.

“For many traits, like coffee drinking, we know that they have a strong genetic component – we’ve known coffee drinking runs in families since the 1960s. But, when we actually start looking at the DNA itself, we usually find a very small percentage of the traits’ variation can be attributed to genes alone,” Williams states.

Genetics are complicated, and thankfully, our relationship with coffee doesn’t have to be. Our love for the dark elixir is one of the most stable and committed relationships that we have — it is there any time we need it — day or night.

Related: If you're sensitive to caffeine, blame your parents

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