You know that friend who drinks you under the table? The one who makes you look like a light-weight? What if it wasn’t a testament to his prowess or an extra strong splash of testosterone? What if it was something much less significant…like the color of his eyes?

Research indicates that eye color might actually be a better indicator of one’s drinking tolerance than body weight, and it’s all because of a little pigment called melanin.

Melanin are a group of natural pigments that determine the color of our skin, hair, and eyes. The amount of melanin in your iris determines your eye color. Individuals born with a lot of melanin in the stroma of their iris tend to have brown eyes; whereas individuals with less tend to have green or hazel eyes. Those with baby blues have no melanin at all in their eyes (or very little).

But what do little pigments in our eyes have to do with the number of shots we can down? Actually, quite a lot, researchers say. Two separate studies (here and here) indicate that individuals with blue eyes tend to drink more because it takes more alcohol for them to feel affected. Via the Daily Mail:

Melanin may also make brown-eyed people more susceptible to alcohol. When psychologists at Georgia State University in Atlanta surveyed more than 12,000 men and women, they found those with light eyes consumed significantly more alcohol than those with dark eyes. The reason brown-eyed people may drink less – and also be less likely to be alcoholics – is because they need less alcohol to become intoxicated.

Unfortunately for blue-eyed people, this perk comes with a rather nasty side effect. Individuals with light eyes not only have a higher tolerance for alcohol, they also have an increased risk of alcoholism.

A recent study by the University of Vermont found that individuals with light eyes had a higher rate of alcohol dependence than their dark eyed counterparts. Researchers found that, within a sample of 1,263 European-Americans, people with blue eyes had the highest rate of alcohol dependence.

So, what do you think? Is the perk worth the risk?


Heather L. Graham is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Collin College in McKinney, Texas. She blogs here