The Latest Buzz: Orszag Budgets for Caffeine Genetic Marker

Staff Writer

Peter Orszag, the high-energy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, recently shared some good news with Politico. No, he hasn't solved the country's economic problems. But he's learned that his genetics won't be crimping a caffeine habit that fuels 80-hour work weeks spent trying to erase a trillion-dollar deficit.

While attending a conference, Orszag learned from biologist Craig Venter that he could get screened for a genetic marker that can raise the risk of heart disease when lots of caffeine is consumed. Orszag, who drinks vast amounts of Diet Coke, went ahead with the test. Luckily for him he's in the clear. "If that test had come out the wrong way, you would not have wanted to be around me afterwards, because to give up caffeine would have been very painful," Orszag told Politico reporter Mike Allen.

The Office of Managament and Budget said that Orszag was traveling today and couldn't provide additional details-including whether he'd learned anything about his genetic predisposition to other diseases. But ScienceInsider guesses that he was referring to a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) called rs762551 that modulates a caffeine metabolizing enzyme in the liver. Those with a "slow" metabolizing version who drink a few cups of coffee a day are at a higher risk of heart attacks.

23andme, the consumer gene testing company in Mountainview, California, tests for rs76255 along with many other SNPs. And it's not just for policy wonks. National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, Harvard University psychologist Steven Pinker, and DNA discoverer James Watson all have had part of their genomes decoded.

Posted in Health, Policy