Caffeine: The Genetics Behind Your Love/Hate Relationship
Part 2: Caffeine’s Tasty Side
Bitter Taste Perception
The type 2 taste receptors, or TAS2Rs, are responsible for tasting bitter compounds and one member in particular is responsible for tasting caffeine — Taste 2 Receptor Member 46 (TAS2R46). Genetic variants of this gene have been linked to reduced taste sensitivity. Since taste is one of the key drivers of food preferences and dietary habits, genetic variants that make individuals less sensitive to caffeine could drive dietary behavior. Individuals who are less sensitive to the bitter taste of caffeine may need less cream and sugar to mask the bitterness in their morning cup of joe. However, they may also be more likely to consume greater quantities — putting them at greater risk of sleep disturbances or anxiety if this trait is paired with other genetic variants.
The synthetic version of caffeine is produced in the lab with petroleum-based chemicals. It is often referred to as “anhydrous caffeine” on food labels and it is the version most often found in soft drinks and energy drinks.
Frequent consumers of natural caffeine sources, like coffee and tea, are noted to have better health than regular consumers of synthetic caffeine sources, like sodas (diet or regular) and energy drinks. It is unclear if this is a response to the type of caffeine or if it is a result of the phytonutrients (healthy plant compounds) that accompany natural sources of caffeine, but this distinction is important to note. Therefore, it is advisable to choose natural sources of caffeine. Caffeine content can vary dramatically by coffee bean or tea leaf variety, as well as by preparation method, so it is wise to check the caffeine content of a beverage before you drink it.
Daily Recommended Intake
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