Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Genetics of a Tea Drinker

I finally received my genetic results from 23andme- a personal genome service that will scan a million spots on your DNA for a mere $100.  My neuroscientist friend says she pays $10 a sequence even with bulk university rates so $100 is a great deal for sampling all 26 chromosomes plus your mitochondrial DNA.  For those prone to anxiety, too much information can be a burden.  Even I fell into quite a slump when shown risks that I already knew about given my family history.

Amongst all the health and ancestry reveals, I found the following genes of particular interest to tea drinking. I would be fascinated to know if any other tea drinkers out there have data to confirm or refute my assumptions.

  • perception of bitter tastes - My TAS2R38 gene makes me 80% likely not to taste certain bitter compounds.  I always thought bitterness was a matter of preference but it's more likely I don't taste the full strength of bitterness that others do.  To drink sheng, one has to enjoy bitterness and who knows if people do overcome a genetically predisposed sensitivity to bitterness.  (A digression-  I was tickled by this article claiming that drinking bitter things makes you more judgemental. The scientific experiment revolves around participants being asked to rate morally questionable acts such as "man eating his already-dead dog, and second cousins engaging in consensual sex".  Those fed bitter drinks were much harsher(28% more) in their judgement.  Following this line of thinking- are puerh bloggers harsher than soda bloggers?)
  • caffeine metabolism - genetic marker rs762551 determines how quickly your liver will metabolize caffeine.  Do those who can absorb quickly have an advantage for copious tea swilling? It's not clear if fast metabolizers are more or less sensitive to the effects of caffeine as the forum on this topic showed a great many fast metabolizers like me that were hyper-sensitive to stimulants in general.
  • addiction - various genes such as the dopamine DRD2 gene has been correlated to addictive behavior.  It's probably not accurate nor useful to project genetic results from heroin/alcohol addiction to puerh addiction.  I wasn't planning ever to take heroin but now that I see I have "substantially higher odds of heroin addiction", I am doubly determined to avoid it now...
What to make of such a glut of genetic data? There is the best one can do- exercise, eat healthy, sleep well, and reduce stress. But such virtuous living is never all that fun. I've heard that people who see that they are more genetically susceptible to certain conditions like Type 2 diabetes do clean up their act.

I decided to take a snapshot of a week's groceries just to compare how I'm fueling myself through the seasons.  Despite the continual photos of pastries and cheese I plaster on this blog, I'm really munching on a lot of fruit and veg. This photo of course is as misleading as it is only half the picture.

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