Previous studies have already shown that those with light colored eyes, and blue eyes in particular, have a better resistance to alcohol than those with darker eyes. But a study now takes things a step even further, suggesting that people who have light colored eyes may in fact have a genetic predisposition for developing alcohol dependency.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Vermont, and published in the American Journal of Medical Genetics: Neuropsychiatric Genetics, the July issues, is the first to ever establish a direct link between eye color and any potential health issues.
Arvis Sulovari, co-author and Assistant Professor specialized in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, gave a statement saying that “This suggests an intriguing possibility that eye color can be useful in the clinic for alcohol dependence diagnosis”.
For their work, Sulovari and co-author Ph.D. Dawei Li, Assistant Professor specialized in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, looked at data gathered from 1.263 European Americans who had light colored eyes and had developed alcohol dependency. They found that the chances of developing the condition increase as eye color gets lighter.
Those with green, grey and light brown eyes were not without risk, but it’s the blue eyed subjects that were the most likely to have this problem. The findings remained the same even when the researchers took into consideration variables such as sex, age, geographical background and genetic ancestry.
While the results were puzzling at first, closer examination revealed that the genetic components responsible for determining which eye color an individual is set to end up with, line up along specific chromosomes that are also responsible for the genes which determine where or not a person is predisposed to excessively consume alcohol.
The study was inspired by another project of professor Li’s, who has been studying psychiatric genetics for a few decade now. He joined the University of Vermont back in 2012, and ever since then he’s been physicians, scientists and other medical experts in an attempt to create clinical and genetic database that currently has 10.000 people who have been diagnosed with one psychiatric condition the very least. Most of the people on this list are either European Americans or African Americans.
Professor Li found that a great deal of the individuals on his list have more than one medical condition related to psychiatric genetics, including depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, but also alcohol dependency and drug dependency. However, he is also quick to point out that these do nit activate on their own, but in relationship to many various environmental triggers.
Sulovari and Li can not yet say without a shred of a doubt that eye color informs whether or not someone has a genetic predisposition for developing alcohol dependency. They intend to conduct further tests in hope of replicating their results.
If these tests do end up reinforcing the findings, the researchers will then try to determine how big of a role cultural and environmental factors play into the equation.
Sulovari also shared that, for him, the most fascinating part of the project has been investigating how biology, statistics and informatics interact with one another.
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