Interindividual Differences in Caffeine Metabolism and Factors Driving Caffeine Consumption

Pharmacol Rev. 2018 Apr;70(2):384-411. doi: 10.1124/pr.117.014407. Epub 2018 Mar 7.


Most individuals adjust their caffeine intake according to the objective and subjective effects induced by the methylxanthine. However, to reach the desired effects, the quantity of caffeine consumed varies largely among individuals. It has been known for decades that the metabolism, clearance, and pharmacokinetics of caffeine is affected by many factors such as age, sex and hormones, liver disease, obesity, smoking, and diet. Caffeine also interacts with many medications. All these factors will be reviewed in the present document and discussed in light of the most recent data concerning the genetic variability affecting caffeine levels and effects at the pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic levels that both critically drive the level of caffeine consumption. The pharmacokinetics of caffeine are highly variable among individuals due to a polymorphism at the level of the CYP1A2 isoform of cytochrome P450, which metabolizes 95% of the caffeine ingested. Moreover there is a polymorphism at the level of another critical enzyme, N-acetyltransferase 2. At the pharmacodynamic level, there are several polymorphisms at the main brain target of caffeine, the adenosine A2A receptor or ADORA2. Genetic studies, including genome-wide association studies, identified several loci critically involved in caffeine consumption and its consequences on sleep, anxiety, and potentially in neurodegenerative and psychiatric diseases. We start reaching a better picture on how a multiplicity of biologic mechanisms seems to drive the levels of caffeine consumption, although much more knowledge is still required to understand caffeine consumption and effects on body functions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Variation, Individual*
  • Caffeine / metabolism*
  • Caffeine / pharmacokinetics
  • Coffee / genetics
  • Coffee / metabolism*
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / genetics
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / metabolism*
  • Drug Interactions
  • Humans
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / metabolism
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Coffee
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Caffeine
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System