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Do you prefer coffee or tea? The answer might be in your genes

Do you prefer coffee or tea? The answer might be in your genes

Do you prefer coffee or tea? The answer might be in your genes

For those wondering why they have a thirst for coffee or a craving for a hot cup of tea, the answer lies within their very veins.

A new study published in Scientific Reports, facilitated in part by QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, suggests that drinking tea or coffee may come down to your genes.

Tea and coffee contain bitter components that contribute to their pleasant taste. Both drinks contain bitter-tasting caffeine, while coffee contains another bitter molecule called quinine, which is also found in tonic water.

It might seem obvious that our preference for tea or coffee is a matter of taste, but research to date has been conflicting on whether our taste buds have anything to do with it.

Studies have suggested factors such as gender, age and how we metabolise caffeine as being associated with the choice.

To find out if this variation influences preference for tea or coffee, Daniel Hwang at the University of Queensland in Australia and his colleagues studied the relationship between taste receptor genes and tea and coffee consumption in over 430,000 men and women aged 37 to 73 in the UK.

“If you’re more sensitive to bitterness, you are more likely to be a tea drinker,” Dr Hwang said.

“But if you are less sensitive to bitterness, you’re more likely to be a coffee drinker.”

Because our genes are fixed at conception, and our genetic variation can be thought of as random, they allow scientists to explore a sort of “natural experiment”, meaning they can look beyond many of the social or environmental factors that can muddy the waters of our hot drink habits.

Interestingly, the Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed 46 per cent of the Australian population consumed coffee, including coffee substitutes, while 38 per cent of Australians drank tea.

“We know that there are lots of factors that affect how and why people drink certain things, but this study highlights the importance of taste genetics on our drinking habits,” says QIMR Berghofer’s Statistical Genetics research group associate Professor Stuart MacGregor.

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