Monday, March 30, 2009

do reds need more meds?

A common belief dictates that redheads possess a higher pain threshold than the majority. I’m convinced I do; I managed to break my left big toe and not realize for two days that it was bent at an awkward angle. Pain tolerance, after all, seems to suit the family of stereotypical characteristics (temperamental, sharp-tongued and stubborn). But I’d always wondered if my assumption had been scientifically explored.

Turns out that would be a yes.

Researchers at Louisville University in 2002 determined that redheads are more sensitive to pain, and therefore require more anesthetic during operations than other patients. In people with red hair, the cells that produce skin and hair pigment possess a dysfunctional melanocortin-1 receptor. This dysfunction triggers the release of more of the hormone that stimulates these cells, but this hormone also stimulates a receptor in the brain linked to pain sensitivity.

Oh, but I’m not finished yet.

Researchers at Edinburgh University in 2005 determined that redheaded women have a higher pain tolerance and therefore require less anesthetic. Normally, the melanocortin-1 gene produces a protein that reduces the efficacy of opiate drugs. However, without a functional gene, natural and artificial painkillers appear to induce an effect that is three times stronger in redheaded women.

So there you are: all that scientific jargon translates to the fact that redheads feel pain more than other people. Or less.

I’m really glad we cleared that up.

1 comment:

  1. visit me
    all about redheads ;)
    [in portuguese - brazil]