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Genetics and Coffee

You may have heard of studies telling you that caffeinated coffee is good for you, and then other studies telling you that it's bad for you. Now a new study says either may be true depending on whether or not you have a specific type of gene. KTEN's Meghan McDermott is here with the HealthWatch report.

It can be hard to imagine not starting our morning's off with a warm cup of joe, but is drinking caffeinated coffee good for you, or bad for you?

Coffee drinker: "I know it gets your heart racing and that can't be good for your heart."

That may be true, depending on the specific gene that breaks down caffeine in the body, and whether you have a slow version of that gene, or a fast version. Dr. Ahmed El-Sohemy and colleagues studied whether genetics make a difference when it comes to coffee and heart attacks.

Ahmed El-Sohemy, Ph.D., University of Toronto: "Of all the studies that have been conducted to date that looked at the effects of either coffee or caffeine on heart disease, none of them have taken into account genetic differences in the ability to break down caffeine."

So this study compared the genes, and coffee-drinking habits, of about 2,000 people who'd had heart attacks, and about 2,000 people who had not. They found that about half the people in the study had the slow version of the gene... the rest had the fast version.

Dr. El-Sohemy: "Surprisingly, what we found was that in individuals under 50 years of age who were fast metabolizers, had the fast version of this gene, consumption of as little as one to three cups a day was associated with a lower risk of heart disease."

Meaning that for those people, coffee may be good for the heart. Since there's not yet a commercial test to find out which version of the gene you have, and you can't tell simply by the way caffeine makes you feel, Dr. El-Sohemy recommends drinking no more than four cups of coffee a day.

Reporting on the HealthWatch, Meghan McDermott, KTEN News.