Like sugar in your coffee? It might be in your genes.

New research carried out at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago has revealed that your preference for taking sugar in your coffee and sweetening other drinks could be genetic. Since 2007, scientists have known that a certain variant of the mysterious ‘FTO gene’ is linked to an increased tendency to obesity. People who have a different variant of the gene are at a lower risk of the disease. This same ‘lower risk’ variant also seems to be linked to a preference for sweetened drinks, which scientists agree is counter intuitive.

Lead researcher Marilyn Cornelis, assistant professor of preventive medicine at the university believes that the gene variant could be linked to behaviour which is why carriers were less likely to put on weight despite their sweet tooth.

In general, though, the study found that with the one exception of the FTO gene variant, our preferences for whether we like drinks sweetened or not are more to do with association and feeling rather than taste. Psychologically, you could be craving the increased alertness of a caffeine buzz rather than the taste itself. The study also showed that there’s a large ‘reward’ component to what we choose to drink. For example, if we’ve had a really nasty journey to work, we might choose to ‘reward’ ourselves with an extra cup of coffee.

The results of the study were published recently in a scientific journal, and included data from around 336,000 people who’d been asked to record their drink intake. The study classed ‘bitter’ drinks as coffee, tea, beer, red wine and grapefruit juice, and ‘sweet’ as other fruit juices and soft drinks.

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