Do you find yourself reaching for another Nespresso Pod only moments after you have guzzled down your last cup? No, you’re probably not addicted, and you don’t need an intervention–not yet. As it turns out, the love of coffee might actually be encoded in your genes.
Wait. What? Yes, you read that right. The same set of genes that tell the color of your eyes, your height, and your features, also tell whether you will salivate at the slightest whiff of coffee or contort your face with dislike.
Evolution has shaped our prehistoric ancestors with sensitivity to bitter substances, as a way to stifle them from ramming poisonous things into their mouths to satisfy their hunger. Consequently, the homo sapiens who avoided bitter-tasting berries and Dart Frog legs lived to hunt another day and had the chance to spawn descendants–who are now standing in line to order a cup of espresso.
You might say, “Hey, it doesn’t add up!” or “It doesn’t make any sense!” True but, a study conducted at the Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Australia revealed that folks who are inherently sensitive to the tart-bitterness of caffeine tend to drink more than those who are less sensitive because the taste of coffee triggers the reward centers in their brain.
It has been known through several studies and researches that coffee stimulates the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. This neurotransmitter produces the perky, pleasant, and “euphoric” feelings that most people often experience with their first cup of coffee in the morning.
Simply put, the research done in Australia suggests that coffee drinkers are more often than not genetically predisposed to like coffee’s bitterness because they learned to associate good feelings with it. So, those who are more able to detect caffeine are naturally attuned to finding it to get that burst of energy and alertness.
Moreover, the dopamine-seeking behavior of humans is also dictated by the genes that control the body’s ability to process or metabolize caffeine. The amount of time a person metabolizes caffeine is directly proportional to the substance’s stimulant effect in the body. Hence, the quicker you metabolize caffeine, the quicker the perkiness dissipates, and, ultimately, the quicker you crave for another round.
When you first started drinking coffee, the pick-me-up was all you needed and also all that you got. But as you continued downing cups after cups of coffee, your liver learned to compensate for the additional substances in your diet by becoming more and more efficient at processing and metabolizing the caffeine. Your brain was likewise programmed to adjust, so you needed more coffee each day to get that same burst of energy. These adjustments in your body introduced a new wave of pleasure to your morning cup of Italian coffee.
So go ahead, put that Nespresso Capsule in the machine… and don’t forget to thank your ancestors while you’re at it.