Background: Coffee is a highly popular drink associated with the pathogenesis of several diseases and the use of tobacco and alcohol. Considering the worldwide consumption, coffee has a substantial effect on individual wellbeing and public health. The role of genetic factors contributing to interindividual differences and their stability in coffee use is not well known.
Aims: We analysed the heritability of coffee consumption and its stability in a large population-based sample of Finnish twins.
Design: In 1975 and 1981 a postal questionnaire on coffee consumption was sent to all Finnish same-sex twin pairs born before 1958. Responses were obtained from 10 716 complete twin pairs in 1975 (3409 monozygotic and 7307 dizygotic), of whom 8124 also responded in 1981. The data were analysed using classical twin modelling based on linear structural equations.
Findings: Additive genetic and unique environmental factors affected coffee drinking, whereas shared environmental factors did not show any effect. Heritability of coffee consumption, adjusted for age and sex, was estimated as 0.56 in 1975 and 0.45 in 1981. Coffee consumption showed a moderate correlation between these two time-points (r = 0.58 in men and 0.55 in women). Genetic factors affecting coffee consumption were stable: additive genetic correlations were 0.84 in men and 0.83 in women, whereas unique environmental correlations were moderate (0.45 and 0.36). Additive genetic factors had the highest contribution in young adults.
Conclusions: Coffee consumption is affected by both additive genetic and unique environmental factors, each of which plays an almost equally important role. The long-term stability of coffee consumption is affected mainly by a stable set of additive genetic factors.