It's easy to recall the face we make when you're in line at a coffee shop and the person before you orders just a plain black coffee. Or that awkward conversation when you admit you adore dark chocolate, but everyone else prefers milk chocolate. There's no need to feel left out, your love for the unpopular may actually be due to your genetics!
When a person prefers black coffee or dark chocolate most people wonder, "But how can they enjoy such a bitter taste?" Interestingly enough, their preference may not have to do with enjoying the taste, but how their genes metabolize caffeine.
Scientists at Northwestern have found that the CYP1A2 gene-- the genetic variant that allows a person's faster metabolism of caffeine-- is the same variant found in those people who prefer dark chocolate over the sweet taste of milk chocolate. The reason behind it is not because of the individuals' taste preference, but because they associate the bitter flavor with the boost in mental alertness that they desire from a cup of black coffee or caffeine.
This new research has shown these genetic variants can be studied closely to understand the relationship between coffee and the many health benefits it provides our bodies. New findings in this study suggest that there are stronger markers for particular types of coffee drinkers, especially, black coffee drinkers. CYP1A1 and CYP1A2 gene variants are genes that are involved in drug metabolism, synthesis of cholesterol, steroids, and other lipids. In addition, CYP1A2 genes have shown the potential to be modifiers of an individual's susceptibility to certain types of cancers.
In addition, dark chocolate has proven benefits to our gut health too! New research suggests that our gut microbes create anti-inflammatory compounds that are linked to cardiovascular and other health benefits from dark chocolate consumption. Gut experts have found beneficial bacteria living at the end of our digestive tract ferment the antioxidants and fiber in cocoa. The daily consumption of dark chocolate or cocoa daily, lowered people's blood pressure by an average of two to three points. Although it is proven that chocolates with higher proportions of cocoa have shown these benefits, the ideal amount to maximize these health benefits is unknown. So a word of caution, dark chocolate should be consumed in moderation to prevent weight gain.
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→ Cornelis, Marilyn C., and Rob M. van Dam. “Genetic Determinants of Liking and Intake of Coffee and Other Bitter Foods and Beverages.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 13 Dec. 2021, https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-03153-7.
→ Courage, Katherine Harmon. “Why Is Dark Chocolate Good for You? Thank Your Microbes.” Scientific American, Scientific American, 19 Mar. 2014, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-is-dark-chocolate-good-for-you-thank-your-microbes/.
→ Sicklick, Jason K., and Paul T. Fanta. “Molecular Pathogenesis of Biliary Tract Cancer.” Blumgart's Surgery of the Liver, Biliary Tract and Pancreas, 2-Volume Set (Sixth Edition), Elsevier, 16 Dec. 2016, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780323340625001229.