genes that affect
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March 8, 2017

Favorite Thing: 23andme

Coffee can give 1/2 of adults a heart attack. Are you in that half?

I love the genetic information you can get from 23andme. Since most of the powerful tools are hidden under the hood, I’m going to show you how to use it and I’ll use my pathetic caffeine clearing genes as an example.

It’s no secret that our genes have big effects on all facets of our health. We learn more each day about how they influence big things like our:

  • Nutrient requirements
  • Disease risks
  • Weight
  • Longevity
  • Immune function
  • Brain chemistry

I’ve watched the science of genetics over my whole career. We still have so much to learn but we’ve reached a point where we can start making use of genetic science in our day to day health.

Whenever I read about a new gene that does something interesting, I do something selfish. I check to see if I have that particular gene variation or not.

I’ll be talking more and more about genetics in the coming months. Dr. Sara Gottfried has a great book coming out. Later on, Dr. Ben Lynch does also. Next time you hear about genetics, I want you to be able to have the same advantage that I do.

OK, back to caffeine, here’s the study I’ll be talking about:

JAMA. 2006 Mar 8;295(10):1135-41.Coffee, CYP1A2 genotype, and risk of myocardial infarction.Cornelis MC1, El-Sohemy A, Kabagambe EK, Campos H.

The basic idea is that between 1994 and 2004, 2014 adults in Costa Rica were tracked to find the relationship between a gene that influences caffeine metabolism and heart attacks.

To find the relationship, researchers took those who had heart attacks, checked their gene status, and asked how much coffee they drank. They also looked at gene status in similar people who did not have heart attacks.

The gene in question controls the speed of a liver enzyme called CYP1A2. This enzyme breaks down caffeine and some medications. Some people break down caffeine fast, others do it slowly. The slower someone breaks it down, the longer it stays in their systems and the more they feel it.

Those with the CYP1A2*1A variation are “rapid” caffeine metabolizers, whereas carriers of the variant CYP1A2*1F are “slow” caffeine metabolizers.

It turned out that for the slow metabolizers, every cup of coffee daily correlated with a stronger risk for heart attack. For the fast metabolizers, coffee correlated with a lower risk for heart attacks.

Sounds like an important difference, doesn’t it?

Especially when you consider that roughly 54% of random adults are slow metabolizers.

Here’s where 23andme comes in. They offer a non-invasive test that lets you know the status of hundreds of thousands of your gene variations. Once you’ve done the test, you can log into your account and find out your status on nearly any gene that will be studied.

There are other ways to test the genes, but none that are less than 3-10 times the cost. Looks like 23andme sells for $199 at the time of this writing. I’m not affiliated with them and I don’t profit from you testing.

You can get kits from them online or in some retail stores. The test is done by just spitting into a tube at home and shipping the tube to their labs in their provided kit.

Once you have done the test and set up an account, here is how you can find your caffeine clearance rate.


Step 1 23andme-step-1

Open the page and go to Browse Raw Data under the Tools Tab.

Step 2

Each gene has a code. Below is the code for the gene looked at in the heart attack study. I’ll share other genes in future discussions.

In the search bar, paste the following text: 23andme-step-2


Step 3

Look at your results.

You’ll get 3 possible results on the far right column, either AA, AC, or CC. 23andme-step-3

Everyone with a C is at risk for a heart attack from coffee.

AC is the slower metabolizer. CC (like me) is the glacially slow metabolizer type.

If you’re AA, 1-2 servings of coffee or tea may have health benefits.


Stay tuned for more genetic tips. I’ll make sure that you can look them up in 23andme also and I’ll tell you how.


To your health,

Dr. C

Daily Reset Packs - Complete Nutrition - Dr. Alan Christianson