How drinking coffee can affect your kidney health

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Scientists from the University of Toronto and other institutions recently embarked on a study to explore how heavy coffee consumption affects kidney health and whether genetics might play a role in this.

They were particularly interested in a gene known as CYP1A2, which affects how quickly our bodies process caffeine.

Imagine two friends, Alice and Bob, who both enjoy several cups of coffee every day. However, they process caffeine differently due to variations in their CYP1A2 gene.

Alice is a slow metabolizer, meaning her body breaks down caffeine slowly. Bob, conversely, is a fast metabolizer, with his body clearing caffeine quickly.

The study revealed that slow metabolizers like Alice, who drink a lot of coffee, show nearly three times more indicators of kidney issues compared to fast metabolizers like Bob.

Researchers examined several key health markers, including the presence of certain proteins in urine, kidney filtration rates, and blood pressure— all critical indicators of kidney function.

Coffee’s effect on kidney health has been debated in past research. Some studies suggest that caffeine could be harmful, potentially leading to kidney damage or even failure.

Other research points to protective benefits from coffee. This study introduces a new layer to the discussion: the interaction between coffee intake and genetics.

Participants in the study who drank substantial amounts—more than three cups daily or around 300 mg of espresso—showed varying effects based on their genetic ability to metabolize caffeine.

This amount is close to the upper limit of daily caffeine intake recommended in many countries, including Canada and the U.S., where up to 400 mg per day is considered safe.

The researchers focused particularly on heavy coffee drinkers who were slow caffeine metabolizers.

They found significant increases in issues like albuminuria (excess protein in urine), hyperfiltration (excessive filtering by the kidneys), and high blood pressure among this group.

This genetic variant, affecting caffeine metabolism, is quite common, with about half of the population, similar to Alice, being slow metabolizers.

Recognizing this, many companies and clinics now offer testing for the CYP1A2 gene to provide personalized dietary advice, which could help mitigate health risks.

The findings underscore the importance of personalized nutrition, which tailors dietary recommendations to individual genetic profiles and personal health.

This approach acknowledges that dietary effects can vary widely from one person to another based on genetic factors.

The research, led by Ahmed El-Sohemy and published in JAMA Network Open, aims to enhance awareness about the importance of understanding one’s genetic makeup in relation to diet.

For coffee lovers, particularly those who consume it in large amounts, this study suggests that understanding one’s genetic profile could be crucial in preventing potential kidney damage.

This study not only sheds light on how our genetics can influence the effects of what we eat and drink but also highlights the broader implications for personalized health and nutrition strategies.

It’s a step toward more personalized health care, where individual characteristics like genetic makeup determine dietary recommendations for better health outcomes.

If you care about kidney health, please read studies about drug that prevents kidney failure in diabetes, and drinking coffee could help reduce risk of kidney injury.

For more information about kidney health, please see recent studies about foods that may prevent recurrence of kidney stones, and common painkillers may harm heart, kidneys and more.

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