​Behind blue eyes: Alcoholism may be linked to eye color

Reuters / Regis Duvignau
Blue-eyed people might have a greater chance of becoming alcoholics, while people with dark eyes are more alcohol-resistant, US genetic researchers have learned.

Claimed to be the first of its kind, the work of scientists at the University of Vermont suggests a surprising link between the eye color and susceptibility to alcoholism, as well as many other psychiatric illnesses and behavioral problems.

The results of the research, conducted by doctoral student Arvis Sulovari and assistant professor Dawei Li, were published in the July issue of the American Journal of Medical Genetics, Neuropsychiatric Genetics.

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This suggests an intriguing possibility – that eye color can be useful in the clinic for alcohol dependence diagnosis,” Sulovari said in the press-release.

The study was conducted based on data from over 1,200 people and concentrated mostly on European Americans, but it was originally founded on a huge database of over 10,000 Americans, both of European and African ancestry. A threefold analysis revealed genetic variables that were common to both eye color determination and alcohol overindulgence.

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The strongest correlation was among blue-eyed individuals, but all people with light-colored eyes (that is, green, grey and brown in the center) turned out to be more alcohol dependent than those with dark brown eyes.

However, according to Li, “we still don’t know the reason” and more research, as well as replication are needed.

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As a next step, the scientists wish to explore the links between cultural background and genetic makeup. Li stressed that all the genes studied “can only explain a small percentage of the genetics part that has been suggested. A large number is still missing, is still unknown.”

“What has fascinated me the most about this work has been investigating the interface between statistics, informatics and biology,” said Sulovari. “It’s an incredible opportunity to study genomics in the context of complex human diseases.”