Caffeine and the Risk of Heart Disease

Talking to my clients about their familial genetic risk factors for developing diseases has been a standard in my practice.  What I never expected to see during my career as a Dietitian, was the ability to assess my clients’ risk of developing chronic diseases based on their own genetic make-up.

This concept was introduced to me about 9 years ago when I heard a speaker at a conference regarding how research in nutrigenomics has shown that we can determine if someone is a high metabolizer or a low metabolizer at the genetic level, and what this means for their risk factors of certain diseases.

For example, he had done some fascinating research that showed people who are low metabolizers of caffeine may be at higher risk of developing heart disease compared to high metabolizers.

I remember being very interested, but thought will we ever get to a place where we have a non-invasive test we can use to determine if someone is a high or low metabolizer?

Well today we do!

Dr.Ahmed El-Sohemy (the researcher I heard 9 years ago!) is now part of a biotechnology company called Nutrigenomix. They’ve developed a simple salvia test that looks at 7 genes and will show whether or not an individual will have gene variants that will increase their risk of developing certain chronic diseases if their diet is high or low in particular nutrients (read about it here)

To understand it more thoroughly, I took the test myself.  Over the next 7 weeks I am going to go through each of the tests in more detail to help readers understand the benefit of knowing this information.

I’m excited to start with the caffeine example (whether I am a high or low metabolizer.)

There has been major controversy over the last few years whether or not caffeine is harmful. Some studies have shown there is an increased risk for developing high blood pressure or heart disease when we consume excess caffeine while others show no effect.  Two recent studies have shown our risk depends on whether or not we have a particular gene variant.  If we have a particular gene variant than we should limit our caffeine consumption to 200mg per day to reduce our risk of developing high blood pressure or heart disease.

My test came back saying I had the gene variant indicating I am a low metabolizer of caffeine.  This means if I consume too much caffeine, my risk of developing high blood pressure or heart disease goes up.  I guess it’s a good thing I never graduated beyond enjoying the smell of coffee!  For whatever reason I simply do not like the taste of caffeinated beverages and am not the biggest chocolate fan.

While this test result is the easiest for me to deal with, it’s not true for all of my test results. Stay tuned in the next six weeks for the next six results (whole grains, saturated fat, sodium, folate, omega-3s, vitamin C)

If you are interested in having the test done so you too can start eating in accordance to your genes and help reduce your risk of chronic disease, please contact our office.