How Many Cups of Coffee Should You Have Today? It Depends on Your Genes.

A close-up shot on a barista pouring milk into a cup of coffee to create latte art

This post was written by Gini Health

Coffee has long been an essential part of most workplace cultures in North America. So many people start their days off with a cup of coffee – some to the extent that without it they cannot function. You, like most companies, most likely have a coffee machine in your office, which employees take advantage of not just in the morning, but when they hit that midday slump, or are casually chatting among colleagues. But could that cup of joe be harming your employees’ health?

Caffeine is the world’s most popular psychoactive drug. Your coffee, tea, regular cola, energy drinks, and hot chocolate all contain caffeine. In North America, 80% of adults consume caffeine on a regular basis. However, depending on your genetic makeup, you could be harming your health regardless of how tolerant you may be to caffeine.

But first, coffee let’s look at how caffeine works

To understand the role genetics play, you have to first understand how caffeine works. This underlying mechanism only became clear to the scientific community roughly 50 years ago.

Neurons, the cells in your brain, break down a molecule called ATP for energy, and one of its byproducts is a chemical called adenosine. As our day progresses, our brain burns more and more energy, which increases our adenosine levels that bind to its receptors, causing us to get sleepy. Caffeine molecules have the same shape as adenosine molecules, but they block the drowsy receptors, so you get an increase in alertness instead.

Are you currently feeling sleepy at work? You should probably read the rest of this article before you get your coffee fix. You’ll see why.

The effects coffee has on your body

When you consume a cup of coffee, the caffeine in your blood peaks within 30 to 60 minutes. It’s absorbed via the small intestine, and since it’s a fat-soluble molecule, it quickly enters the brain. It takes between three to five hours to metabolize and eliminate half of the caffeine present in your body.

Over time, you build up a tolerance to caffeine because your cells react to your caffeine intake by producing more of those drowsy receptors. The natural reaction to this tolerance is to increase your intake of coffee. However, this can be ineffective or detrimental to your health because depending on your genetic makeup, your body can only metabolize a certain amount of caffeine a day.

Slow metabolizers of caffeine have to be extra careful about heavy coffee consumption because it increases their likelihood of having a heart attack. The effects on fast metabolizers are the opposite and they will likely benefit from the polyphenols and antioxidants present in coffee. How do you find out how fast or slow your metabolism is to ensure you avoid harmful effects? The answer lies in your genes.

Your genes influencing caffeine sensitivity

A gene called CYP1A2 controls your caffeine metabolism. Around 45% of the population in North America are estimated to be fast metabolizers (genotype A/A). While the rest fall into either the slow metabolizer (C/C) or the intermediate metabolizer (A/C) category. Even a small amount of caffeine can keep slow metabolizers up all night and give them unwanted side effects. It’s recommended that slow metabolizers restrict their caffeine intake to no more than 200 milligrams per day or less than two cups of coffee.

Assessing your health risks to caffeine

So how do you find out what your risk level is? The best way to get a holistic view on how your genes impact your health risks and nutritional absorption is through a simple DNA test. Gini’s DNA test provides you with a caffeine consumption report and further data that cover health, exercise, intolerances, and essential macro and micro-nutrients. Plus, you can search for any foods to find out if they’re genetically right for you.   

Every Honeybee employee benefits plan includes access to Honeybee’s app, where employees can find exclusive offers such as discounts on a Gini DNA test kit. Plus, you can help cover this expense and other wellness expenses by funding Honeybee Allowance Accounts for your workforce.

See if Honeybee Benefits is right for your company!