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B Woolf et al, 2023. Appraising the causal relationship between plasma caffeine levels and neuropsychiatric disorders through Mendelian randomization, BMC Med.

Appraising the causal relationship between plasma caffeine levels and neuropsychiatric disorders through Mendelian randomization

B Woolf et al
BMC Medicine
August 14, 2023


Caffeine exposure modifies the turnover of monoamine neurotransmitters, which play a role in several neuropsychiatric disorders. We conducted a Mendelian randomization study to investigate whether higher plasma caffeine levels are causally associated with the risk of anorexia nervosa, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder (MDD), and schizophrenia.

Summary-level data on the neuropsychiatric disorders were obtained from large-scale genome-wide association studies (GWASs) of European ancestry participants (n = 72,517 to 807,553) and meta-analyzed with the corresponding data from the FinnGen study (n = 356,077). Summary-level data on plasma caffeine were extracted from a GWAS meta-analysis of 9876 European ancestry individuals. The Mendelian randomization analyses estimated the Wald ratio for each genetic variant and meta-analyzed the variant-specific estimates using multiplicative random effects meta-analysis.

After correcting for multiple testing, genetically predicted higher plasma caffeine levels were associated with higher odds of anorexia nervosa (odds ratio [OR] = 1.124; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.024-1.238, pFDR = 0.039) and a lower odds of bipolar disorder (OR = 0.905, 95% CI = 0.827-0.929, pFDR = 0.041) and MDD (OR = 0.965, 95% CI = 0.937-0.995, pFDR = 0.039). Instrumented plasma caffeine levels were not associated with schizophrenia (OR = 0.986, 95% CI = 0.929-1.047, pFDR = 0.646).

These Mendelian randomization findings indicate that long-term higher plasma caffeine levels may lower the risk of bipolar disorder and MDD but increase the risk of anorexia nervosa. These results warrant further research to explore whether caffeine consumption, supplementation, or abstinence could render clinically relevant therapeutic or preventative psychiatric effects.

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