Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Caffeine: Friend or Foe?

By: Andrew Jagim

In honor of transparency and unbiased writing, we feel as though it is only fair to discuss the other side of the story when it comes to caffeine use. It's no secret that Joel and I are very much pro-caffeine and can fully admit we are addicted. We often discuss the performance and health benefits of regular caffeine and/or coffee consumption. But what about some of the studies that show the opposite? What about some of the studies that report regular coffee consumption actually increases your risk for Cardiovascular Disease or actually makes people perform worse? How can something that is so widely used by people yield such conflicting findings in the literature?

The answer may lie within our genetic makeup. We are learning more and more about how genetics influence our livelihood and performance capabilities which may dictate how we respond to certain foods and activities.  I recently attended a presentation on Nutrigenomics at the 2016 International Society of Sports Nutrition National Conference in Clearwater Beach, FL. Nutrigenomics is a booming field which we can get into at a later time (Click Here For More Details). 

The focus of the talk was the how certain genes may dictate whether or not caffeine is good or bad for us.  Specifically it appears as though certain people posses a genotype (CYP1A2 Genotype) and if we possess it we are "fast metabolizers" and are better suited to positively respond to caffeine which over time means that we experience certain health benefits. Conversely, if we lack this geneotype, we are labeled as "slow metabolizer" and therefore will negatively respond to caffeine ultimately increasing our risk for the development of cardiovascular disease and other health issues.   It should be noted that whether or not we possess this genotype does not influence whether or not we "feel" the stimulatory effects of caffeine. For most individuals they will still feel the boost in energy whether or not they have it. If you don't, then you likely are a regular caffeine consumer and your body has built up a tolerance and you have become desensitized. Again, this can occur regardless of whether or not you have the genotype.

The relationship between the genotype and how we metabolize caffeine is why some of the literature on caffeine use and the potential health/performance benefits are conflicting; and why some show a benefit while others show the exact opposite.  What's crazy about this is that 50% of individuals do not have this genotype. So essentially you may have a 50/50 shot of whether or not caffeine is good or bad for you. 50/50 ?! S***! To me, someone who would rather vote for caffeine in this year's presidential election over some of our candidates, this is kind of disturbing news. The presenter at the conference does work for a company (Nutrigenomix) that offers genetic testing (via saliva sampling) and can tell you whether or not you have the genotype, in addition to several others, and can offer specific nutritional recommendations for you.  Since damn near 100% of the population loves caffeine it's probably a good idea that we check into whether or not we have this genotype so we know if we need to make any modifications.

Granted, this field of research is still very much in its infancy and therefore it may not be as simple as having or not having 1 genotype. There very well may be several genotypes at play when it comes to whether or not caffeine is good/bad for us but some of the recent research in this area certainly points to this being the case.  So, make sure you really pay attention to how you feel and how your body responds to caffeine or actually get some genetic testing done before you jump aboard the caffeine train with us.

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