Some people have more alcohol tolerance than others for no apparent reason.
Most of us highlight the importance of influencing factors like gender, height, weight, and each person’s experience with alcohol, with tall and heavy males having the most tolerance out of all. In some cases, people’s tolerance escape these simple parameters, leaving us with no apparent scientific explanation.
While it is true that males and people with larger body masses tend to have more resistance to alcohol, other biological factors that are harder to pinpoint also play a part. The Huffington Post spoke with some biologists and experts who explained the role that elements like enzymes and neurotransmitters play in this complicated process.
“Much of the alcohol processed in the body is initially metabolized by the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase to a compound called acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is further metabolized by the enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase,” says Brad Uren, assistant professor at the Unversity of Michigan. “This can lead to flushing of the skin, and worsening or increased symptoms commonly associated with hangover.”
When it comes to our neurotransmitters, researchers theorize that people with a higher tolerance may not receive the standard brain signals that others do, missing out on the cues that let them know they should stop drinking.
Exposure to alcohol also plays a role in people’s tolerance, with people who drink habitually being capable of having the same amount of drinks as others without feeling or acting drunk. Still, researchers stress on the importance of the amount of alcohol consumed, no matter how drunk people act or appear.
“It is not safe to assume that these individuals are better able to perform tasks that require concentration and reaction time, such as driving a vehicle, as if they had not consumed alcohol,” says Uren.
In other words, if you have a high tolerance for alcohol and have had over five drinks, you could still have a high level of alcohol in your bloodstream. This could produce unexpected reactions in your body or get you a DUI, just like everyone else.
Just because someone has a high tolerance doesn’t mean that they’re exempt from the negative side effects of alcohol. These people face the same risks that people with low tolerance do, especially when it comes to the long term effects of alcohol, which appear in the shape of diseases like brain damage, cirrhosis of the liver, gastritis and stomach cancer. In fact, “capable” drinkers are at a higher risk of developing diseases and alcoholism since they tend to drink more alcohol than lightweights do.