Most of us know at least one friend who can put away an impressive amount of booze and only seem mildly inebriated. Meanwhile, others could have half that and end up on the bathroom floor for hours. Yes, tolerance does have something to do with it, and you can build tolerance by drinking more. However, as it turns out your genetics may have a lot more to do with it than you think.
A new study done by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania was recently published in the Ecology & Evolution journal. The study found that different populations of people are developing genetic adaptations that actually give them a mild alcohol intolerance. That means that your genetics can literally make it so that alcohol affects you more severely than other people.
When you consume alcohol your body converts it into acetaldehyde, which is toxic and causes you to feel hungover. Usually, that acetaldehyde is then converted into water which can be urinated out. However, acetaldehyde can also end up in the liver, which causes people to feel hungover until their live has finished processing it. According to this study, some people are genetically more like to keep more of the acetaldehyde in their liver, which causes them to feel hungover more easily.
It is worth noting that evolution is an incredibly slow process. Some scientists theorize that humans have actually always been alcohol intolerant, but developed a gene mutation that allowed them to process alcohol thousands of years ago.
The bottom line is this: if you can’t hold your booze, you can thank your ancestors. Remember, it’s not worth trying to go drink-for-drink with someone who can drink you under the table. It has nothing to do with willpower, it’s actually genetics.