Pamela Malo, MHS, RD, Arivale Coach
To coffee or not to coffee. While many of us are forever and firmly on Team More Caffeine Please, it’s worth exploring what regular caffeine consumption means for our health, particularly when it comes to blood pressure.
Caffeine is the most widely used drug in the world, and it’s a common subject of “health or not healthy” debates. There’s ample research into the benefits of moderate caffeine consumption (when it comes from a healthy source like black coffee or green tea i.e. put that Red Bull away). Some observational studies show that caffeine may decrease the risk for depression, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, though a lot of evidence is still contradictory.
When it comes to blood pressure, there’s controversy around whether or not caffeine increases your risk for hypertension. This could be because, depending on your genetics, caffeine could have a positive or negative long-term impact on blood pressure.
Caffeine, Genetics, and Your Blood Pressure
The CYP1A2 gene helps your body make an enzyme that metabolizes more than 95 percent of the caffeine you consume. One variant in this gene (rs762551) may impact your predisposition for developing high blood pressure with regular caffeine consumption, though exactly how it does this is not yet clear.
CYP1A2 is often called the “caffeine metabolizer” gene. The variant does impact how fast or slow you metabolize caffeine; however, contrary to popular belief, there’s no evidence that this variant impacts whether or not you get a caffeine “buzz.” In other words, it does not affect your alertness, jitteriness, and sleeping habits.
Now, back to blood pressure.
Depending on your genotype, regular caffeine consumption—even in small amounts—could potentially help either increase or decrease your risk of developing hypertension.
Nine percent of our members have the CC genotype, which indicates habitual caffeine consumption could potentially increase their risk for high blood pressure. Forty-one percent of our members have the neutral genotype (AC), and 50 percent have the beneficial genotype (AA), meaning regular caffeine consumption could potentially lower their risk for high blood pressure.
So, to coffee or not to coffee? There are a lot of factors at play—including your own personal preference and your current blood pressure readings. If you’re concerned about your blood pressure, knowing your genetic predisposition can help you make an informed decision about whether or not you want that second cup.