Coffee is the most popular worldwide beverage, with more than 400 billion cups consumed every year. In many countries, the coffee culture is a ritual, so scientists are always interested in coffee research. 

New research shows that one’s coffee intake is affected by a positive feedback loop between genetics and the environment. The study is issued in the journal Behavioral Genetics. This phenomenon is known as “quantile-specific heritability.” The phenomenon is also associated with body weight and cholesterol levels and is thought to play a role in additional human physiological and behavioral traits that defy a simple explanation.

Paul Williams is a statistician at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), stated that it appears that environmental factors set the groundwork in which your genes start to affect. He also added that your surroundings predispose you to drink more coffee. If your coworkers or spouse drink a lot, or you live in an area with a lot of cafes – then the genes have a big impact that you possess predispose to like coffee more. 

For the study, Williams evaluated 4,788 child-parent pairs and 2,380 siblings from the Framingham Study. The Framingham study is a well-known, ongoing study published by the National Institutes of Health in 1948 to discover how lifestyle and genetics affect rates of cardiovascular disease. Based on this data, Williams used statistical methods to calculate what proportion of the participants’ coffee drinking could be explained by genetics and what must be influenced by external factors.

He said that when they started to decode the human genome, they thought that they would be able to read the DNA and understand how genes translate into behavior and medical conditions. But that did not work out. Williams also added that traits, like coffee drinking, are known to have a strong genetic component. They knew that coffee drinking runs in families since the 1960s. But, when they started looking at the DNA itself, they found a tiny percentage of the traits’ variation that could be attributed to genes alone.

The study noted that the situation is more complex, adding that the methods used to arrive at the findings may help explain the diversity of traits we see in the real world. Williams stated that this is a whole new area of exploration that is just now opening up. He also thinks it will change, in a very fundamental way, how we believe genes influence a person’s traits.

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