Before you request a paternity test, spend a few minutes looking at your child’s eye color. It may just give you the answer you’re looking for. According to Bruno Laeng and colleagues, from the University of Tromso, Norway, the human eye color reflects a simple, predictable and reliable genetic pattern of inheritance. Their studies 1 , published in the Springer journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, show that blue-eyed men find blue-eyed women more attractive than brown-eyed women. According to the researchers, it is because there could be an unconscious male adaptation for the detection of paternity, based on eye color.
The laws of genetics state that eye color is inherited as follows:
- If both parents have blue eyes, the children will have blue eyes.
- The brown eye form of the eye color gene (or allele) is dominant, whereas the blue eye allele is recessive.
- If both parents have brown eyes yet carry the allele for blue eyes, a quarter of the children will have blue eyes, and three quarters will have brown eyes.
It then follows that if a child born to two blue-eyed parents does not have blue eyes, then the blue-eyed father is not the biological father. It is therefore reasonable to expect that a man would be more attracted towards a woman displaying a trait that increases his paternal confidence, and the likelihood that he could uncover his partner’s sexual infidelity.
Eighty-eight male and female students were asked to rate facial attractiveness of models on a computer. The pictures were close-ups of young adult faces, unfamiliar to the participants. The eye color of each model was manipulated, so that for each model’s face two versions were shown, one with the natural eye color (blue/brown) and another with the other color (brown/blue). The participants’ own eye color was noted.
Both blue-eyed and brown-eyed women showed no difference in their preferences for male models of either eye color. Similarly, brown-eyed men showed no preference for either blue-eyed or brown-eyed female models. However, blue-eyed men rated blue-eyed female models as more attractive than brown-eyed models.
In a second study, a group of 443 young adults of both sexes and different eye colors were asked to report the eye color of their romantic partners. Blue-eyed men were the group with the largest proportion of partners of the same eye color.
According to Bruno Laeng and colleagues, “It is remarkable that blue-eyed men showed such a clear preference for women with the same eye color, given that the present experiment did not request participants to choose prospective sexual mates, but only to provide their aesthetic or attractiveness responses…based on face close-up photographs.” Blue-eyed men may have unconsciously learned to value a physical trait that can facilitate recognition of own kin.
1. Laeng B et al (2006). Why do blue-eyed men prefer women with the same eye color? (Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology DOI 1007.1007/s00265-006-0266-1)
Your eyes aren’t blue (or green) because they contain pigmented cells.
As Paul Van Slembrouck writes for Medium, their colour is actually structural – and it involves some pretty interesting physics.
The coloured part of your eye is called the iris, and it’s made up of two layers – the epithelium at the back and the stroma at the front.
The epithelium is only two cells thick and contains black-brown pigments – the dark specks that some people have in their eye is, in fact, the epithelium peeking through.
The stroma, in contrast, is made up of colourless collagen fibres. Sometimes the stroma contains a dark pigment called melanin, and sometimes it contains excess collagen deposits.
And, fascinatingly, it’s these two factors that control your eye colour.
Brown eyes, for example, contain a high concentration of melanin in their stroma, which absorbs most of the light entering the eye regardless of collagen deposits, giving them their dark colour.
Green eyes don’t have much melanin in them, but they also have no collagen deposits.
This means that while some of the light entering them is absorbed by the pigment, the particles in the stroma also scatter light as a result of something called the Tyndall effect, which creates a blue hue (it’s similar to Rayleigh scattering which makes the sky look blue).
Combined with the brown melanin, this results in the eyes appearing green.
Blue eyes are potentially the most fascinating, as their colour is entirely structural.
People with blue eyes have a completely colourless stroma with no pigment at all, and it also contains no excess collagen deposits.
This means that all the light that enters it is scattered back into the atmosphere and as a result of the Tyndall effect, creates a blue hue.
Interestingly, this means that blue eyes don’t actually have a set colour – it all depends on the amount of light available when you look at them.
Structural colouration also gives colour to butterflies, beef and berries.
It’s pretty mind-blowing stuff.
“Imagine that you could shrink yourself to a microscopic size and then climb through the mesh of fibres in the stroma. That’s where structural colouration is coming from…
… and in the mesh are also strands of smooth muscle tissue that contract to dilate (expand) the pupil, pulling the inner edge of the iris toward the outer edge. When this happens, the stroma fibres slacken and may become wiggly as tension is released. This makes me wonder, does that slightly alter the colour of your eye as well?”
Check out Van Slembrouck’s great story to find out how hazel and grey eyes get their colour, and also to check out his beautiful diagrams that explain structural colouring.
A big part of eye color comes from the OCA2 gene. When it is working, it makes pigment and gives you brown eyes. When it isn’t working, no pigment gets made and you have lighter colored eyes.
From here on out I’ll simplify things by referring to “lighter colored” as blue. Understand that the ideas I propose will work for green or hazel or any other color that isn’t brown.
The usual way you get a working or a nonworking OCA2 gene is by inheriting it. So there is one version of OCA2 that gives brown eyes and one that can give blue.
Eye color usually comes from inheriting certain versions of the OCA2 gene. But this isn’t the only gene that affects your eye color!
But inheriting a broken gene isn’t the only way to get a gene that doesn’t work. Sometimes one gene can shut off another, different gene.
When this happens, the shut off gene can sometimes be turned back on again. So for our discussion here, a brown-eye version of the OCA2 gene might be off in a blue-eyed parent but on in a brown-eyed child.
Imagine someone who has blue eyes but a brown OCA2 gene. One way this might happen is if they have a second gene that shuts off the brown OCA2 gene.
A shut off OCA2 is the same as having a blue OCA2 gene. Neither makes any pigment and no pigment means blue eyes.
The difference, though, is that unlike having a blue OCA2 gene, a shut off gene can be turned on again. Let’s show how this might lead to blue-eyed parents having a brown-eyed child.
Imagine that mom-to-be Jane has blue eyes with a brown OCA2 gene. As good geneticists, we’ll call her brown version of OCA2, B .
Jane has a second gene we’ll call A. One of the things A does is shut off the OCA2 gene. So since Jane has A , she has blue eyes no matter what her OCA2 gene says.
Next we’ll show how Jane might end up with a brown-eyed child. To understand this, we need to take a step back and do a quick refresher course on genes.
Sometimes one gene can shut off another. Here we’ll use a theoretical gene “A” as an example.
We have two copies of most of our genes. We get one copy from our mom and one copy from our dad. This is why it makes sense that brown-eyed parents might have a blue-eyed child.
Remember that different versions of genes can be dominant or recessive. What this means is that if you have one copy of each version of a gene, one will win out over the other.
So someone with a brown OCA2 ( B ) and a blue OCA2 ( b ) will have brown eyes. Because brown ( B ) is dominant over blue ( b ).
Two parents who are B b and so have brown eyes each have a 50% chance of passing a b to their child. If they both do, that child would be bb and have blue eyes.
This is also where your question comes from of course. By the old genetic rules, two blue-eyed parents would both be bb and so could only pass b to their kids. Blue-eyed parents should only be able to have blue-eyed kids.
But there’s more than one way to turn an eye blue. Remember our hypothetical A gene.
Now we’re ready. Jane has a B gene but has blue eyes. This is because of her A gene which shuts off the OCA2 eye color gene.
Let’s imagine that the dominant A version shuts off the OCA2 gene and that the recessive a version doesn’t. Jane has a version of each.
OK, so Jane has the following set of genes (or genotype): A a B b . She has blue eyes because of A but carries a brown eye gene B . To make things simpler, we’ll say her blue-eyed husband John is aa bb .
For Jane to have a brown-eyed child, she just needs to pass both her a and her B to her child. Now her child will be aa B b … the child will have brown eyes even with blue-eyed parents. Because the child doesn’t have a dominant A that shuts off his or her B .
One way two blue-eyed parents can have a child with brown eyes.
If something like this were true, then each of John and Jane’s children would have a 1 in 4 chance of brown eyes. Pretty good odds!
Of course we don’t actually know if this is what is going on. But I wanted to present one way that something like this might have happened.
There are other possible ways too. I won’t have time to go into them but they could include things like albinism where someone might have a B but have blue eyes because he or she can’t make any pigment. Or maybe some eye damage that causes what would have been a brown-eyed person to have blue eyes. Or.
Wondering how to get the blue eyes filter on Instagram that has recently become very popular on social media? Read on to know the step by step process.
A new filter on Instagram has gotten very popular amidst the lockdown. It is one which changes the user’s eye colour to blue. As more and more people are trying the filter, here is how you can get the filter too on Instagram just by following these easy steps.
What is the 'Blue eyes' filter on Instagram?
Amid the coronavirus lockdown, many people have resorted to social media to cope up in these dark times. This gave way to social media apps coming up with interesting challenges and filters. Filters on Instagram help one see a changed version of themselves, like changing eye colour, putting freckles on the face, or showing wrinkles on the face.
The blue eyes filter on Instagram is one such example that is keeping more and more people engaged. Blue eye colour is a rare feature found in people. This filter helps people quench their thirst for knowing how they would have looked with blue eyes, without even having to use coloured contact lenses.
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Johnstone M. Kim, MD, is a board-certified ophthalmologist and a practicing physician at Midwest Retina in Dublin, Ohio.
The color of your eyes can be an indication to risk factors when it comes to specific health problems. Interestingly enough, if you have blue eyes, your risk for certain health conditions increases when compared to any other eye color. This is due to the lack of melanin present in the iris of people with blue eyes.
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Percentage of People in the World With Blue Eyes
While many people think of blue eyes as popular, blue eyes are only present in 8-10% of the world population. The most common eye color? Brown, with an astounding 79% of people in the world having brown eyes.
Blue Eyes and Health
Eye color is about more than appearance. In science and research, blue eyes are sometimes a starting point for determining why a condition may exist. Researchers are looking at the connection between blue eyes and increased cases of:
- Eye Cancer
- Macular degeneration
- Hearing loss
Eye doctors remind almost everyone with blue eyes to wear sunglasses to reduce the risk of potential eye cancers like eye melanoma. In the same way, you can get melanoma on your skin, you can also get melanoma in your eye.
Eye melanoma is known to be more common for those with fair skin and light-colored eyes. While ocular melanomas may happen at any age, the risk goes up as you get older.
Type 1 Diabetes
While there are still many questions to investigate and explanations to find, researchers in Europe are noticing a significant portion of those with type 1 diabetes also have blue eyes.
The macula, which is at the retina's center, is susceptible to damage as you age. This damage will cause your vision to become blurrier and more distorted. While researchers have not pinpointed the exact cause yet, they know of two facts:
- Macular degeneration is related to age. The older you are, the more likely you will have macular degeneration.
- Women with fair skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes have a significantly higher chance of developing macular degeneration.
According to a study in 2015, scientists are looking into the possibility of those who have blue eyes being at higher risk for sensorineural hearing loss.
This form of hearing loss comes from damage to the inner ear or to the nerve going from the ear to the brain. Since the inner ear uses melanin, and blue eyes come from a lack of melanin, some researchers hypothesize there may be a link between eye color and acquired hearing loss.
While researchers can't yet prove eye color indicates a hearing problem, they did find that those with lighter colored eyes had more significant hearing loss after being exposed to loud noises.
How Eyes Become Blue
Technically, blue eyes are colorless. Not only are they colorless, but everyone with blue eyes is directly related to the same ancestor.
An Optical Illusion
The iris is the colored part of your eye that has multiple layers. The top layer, called the epithelium, is where the melanin gives an eye its color lives. When there is no melanin or pigment in that top layer, the eyes take on a blue appearance. The blue hue is coming from the light reflecting on the water in your eye and through layers below.
Looking at blue eyes is like looking at a swimming pool full of water. When swimming pools are being filled with water, the water going in is clear. However, when the water is altogether in the pool, it takes on a blue tint because it reflects light. This is the same concept when it comes to eye color. The iris' top layer's color is clear, but how it reflects light gives it a blue appearance.
Why Most Babies Are Born With Blue Eyes and Why They May Eventually Change
The gene responsible for creating the melanin in our eyes may wait to activate melanin production up to six months after birth. If this gene doesn't activate, the eyes will stay blue.
A mere 10,000 years ago, blue eyes didn't exist. Right now, researchers believe there is one ancestor responsible for blue eyes descended from the Black Sea region of southeastern Europe anywhere between 6,000 to 10,000 years ago.
This one person with a genetic mutation had children, which passed the trait to the next generation. As that generation had children and moved around, the blue eye mutation continued to spread.
This means everyone with blue eyes has one thing in common; they're all related. Researchers have spent years trying to figure out why some of us have brown eyes while others have blue, hazel, or green.
Since the blue eye genes go as far back as the Stone Age, there is no concern about two blue-eyed people dating, getting married, or having children. The ancestors that blue-eyed people have in common go so far back in time that it's implausible you'd share any genetic material with someone outside your family tree.
How did we go from having one person living near the Black Sea with blue eyes to millions of people worldwide having blue eyes within the last 10,000 years? No one knows. However, there are several interesting theories.
It all may relate to the dark winters prevalent in Northern Europe. In theory, blue eyes may protect you from acquiring vision disorders caused by the long dark winters.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are two main genes on chromosome 15, called the OCA2 and HERC2 genes, that determine a person's eye color. Blue eye color is a recessive trait, but brown-eyed parents can still produce a blue-eyed child if both parents carry the genes for blue eyes.
Blue eyes are more concentrated in certain regions than others. The top location known for its fair-skinned, blue-eyed population is Estonia, followed closely by Finland. Ireland and Scotland have the next-highest population of people with blue eyes.
Eye color is partially affected by light, especially blue eyes, which get their color specifically by light entering and reflecting out of the eye. This can make the blue eyes look slightly different depending on the type of lighting conditions.
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Why are Babies Born with Blue Eyes?
Most babies in the United States are born with blue eyes. Interestingly, only 1 in 5 Caucasian adults grow up to have baby blues . So, why are babies born with blue eyes? It has to do with the amount of melanin they have and how much it increases after birth. This is different for each baby.
What is Melanin?
Melanin is a pigment that darkens the eyes, hair and skin. When babies are born, they don’t have melanin in their irises yet. However, they develop more melanin in their first weeks and months of life. This is why you’ll see the blue eyes change.
A small amount of melanin in the eyes makes them appear blue. A medium amount makes them appear green or hazel, and a lot of melanin makes the eyes brown. Eye color typically isn’t set until 1 or 2 years old because this is when the melanin has reached its peak.
Eye Color and Genetics
Having blue eyes at birth has nothing to do with genetics. Many babies, even those of non-white ethnicities, are born with blue eyes. However, genetics play a role in what eye color the baby will end up with. But, it’s not quite as cut-and-dry as you might have learned in science class.
-Two blue-eyed parents are likely to have a blue-eyed child, but it won’t happen every time.
-Two brown-eyed parents are likely to have a child with brown eyes, but again, this won’t happen every time.
-If one of the grandparents has blue eyes, the baby’s chances of having blue eyes increase.
-If one parent has brown eyes and the other has blue eyes, the child has a 50/50 chance on either eye color.
Most of the Time, Blue Eyes Darken
When a baby is born with blue eyes, it has to do with the fact that very little melanin has built up. Over the first few days, weeks and months of life, the baby’s melanin will increase and affect eye color. Whether the baby’s eyes stay blue depends on genetics, such as having a parent or grandparent with blue eyes.
If, however, your child has two different eye colors, they could have a condition called heterochromia iridis. This condition is rare and usually nothing serious. It’s typically a color quirk that was caused when the eyes were formed. Still, it’s important to get it checked out by a retina specialist in NYC.
No matter what color a baby’s eyes turn out to be, we can all agree that their health matters most!
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While there is a limitless number of hues, shades, richness, and combinations of colors, most people agree about how many eye colors there are in general. And that number is six: brown, hazel, blue, green, gray, and amber.
The Basic Eye Colors
Generally, eye color depends on how much of the pigment melanin is in the iris, the colored part of the eyes. A small number of people may notice their eye color changing with age. The more pigment, the darker the eyes. The only pigment is brown; the color of the eyes is determined by the level of pigmen tation in the eyes. Research shows that up to 16 genes may influence eye color.
There is no such thing as black irises. Eyes that appear to be black are simply very dark brown.
Brown eyes are by far the most common. In fact, approximately 80 p ercent of the world’s population has brown eyes. Because they are deeply pigmented, brown eyes are more protected from the sun than other colored eyes.
There’s a saying out there that all people with blue eyes are related. Legend has it that at one time, everyone had brown eyes, but a genetic mutation in a single individual 10,000 years ago led to blue eyes. Whether that’s true or not, we do not know for sure. What we do know is that about 10 percent of the world’s population has blue eyes today.
The word “hazel” doesn’t really describe a color as much as a combination of colors. Hazel eyes have hints of green, blue, gold, and br own. About 5 percent of the population has hazel eyes.
The number of people who have true amber eyes is unclear, but it is definitely one of the rarest colors. Unlike hazel eyes, amber eyes do not contain hints of other colors.
Only 3 percent of the world’s population has gray eyes, which understandably may be confused with blue eyes.
Although it may not appear to be so, green eyes are the least common. Green eyes have more melanin than blue eyes, but only 2 percent of the people in the world have green eyes.
While the above is a general idea of how many eye colors there are, truly no two pairs of eyes are alike, which is part of what makes each human wonderfully unique. In some cases, combinations of various colors may make identifying the eye color impossible, and some eyes that appear hazel may look blue dependin g on the season or clothing.
Perhaps most fascinating are heterochromatic eyes , where one person has different-colored eyes. Other than their appearance, heterochromatic eyes are no different than any other eyes.
However, people with such eyes tend to get a lot of attention. Celebrities known for their heterochromia include:
- Domin ic Sherwood, whose left eye is half blue and half brown.
- Kate Bosworth, who has one eye that is half blue and half hazel.
- Jane Seymour, who has a brown left eye and green right eye.
- Max Scherzer, whose eyes are stunningly different, with one dark brown and the other light blue/gray.
Ever wondered what you would look like with different colored eyes? With modern contact lenses, people can change their eye color by just popping in contacts. Colored contacts can range from common natural eye colors to colors such as purple or red. Ask your doctor about getting prescription colored contact lenses.
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New parents often wonder what color their baby's eyes will be when they are born. Predicting a baby's eye color is not as easy as it seems. Ultimately, eye color depends on the genetic material that each parent contributes and how those genes mix and match together.
How Eyes Get Their Color
Dark-skinned adults tend to have dark eyes. Adults with lighter eyes are more likely to also have lighter-colored skin. While there is very limited research on infant eye color, the same pattern seems to be true in babies. A 2016 study found most Caucasian babies are born with grayish-blue eyes, while Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and Asian babies are often born with dark brown eyes. But this color can change once the baby's eyes are exposed to light outside of the womb because the iris (the colored ring around the black pupil) has color-producing cells in it.
Usually, this color-changing process takes around six months. However, sometimes eye color continues to change until the age of 6. About 10% of Caucasian babies will continue to experience changes in their eye color through adulthood.
Eye color is determined by melanocytes, which are cells that secrete the protein melanin. Melanin is what influences skin, hair, and eye color. The iris contains melanocytes, and these cells respond to light by increasing melanin production, usually over the first year of life.
Depending on how much melanin is secreted, your baby's eye color may slowly begin to change after birth. If your baby has blue eyes, their melanocytes are secreting only a little melanin. If they secrete just a little bit more, your baby's eyes will look green or hazel. If your baby has brown eyes, the melanocytes are secreting a lot of melanin.
There are as many as 16 different genes involved in determining eye color, but the two most common are the OCA2 and HERC2 alleles. These genes control for brown or blue and green or hazel.
For years, brown eye color was considered the "dominant" trait, and blue eye color was considered the "recessive" trait. But today, we know that determining eye color is not that simple because eye color is not influenced by just one or two genes.
Ultimately, your baby's exact eye color will depend on the combination of these 16 genes that they inherit from both of their parents. This is why, though rare, two parents with brown eyes can have a baby with blue eyes.
Eye Color Concerns
Sometimes children are born with irises that do not match in color. This condition, known as heterochromia, is typically present at birth (where it is called congenital heterochromia). It generally does not cause any negative symptoms.
But heterochromia can also result from a health condition or trauma. For example, Horner's syndrome, which is a disruption of the nerve pathway from the brain to one side of the face and eye, can cause unexpected changes in eye color. The affected eye often has a lighter color than its counterpart.
Waardenburg syndrome is a group of genetic conditions that can also cause changes in eye coloring. Children with this condition often have very pale blue eyes, have one blue eye and one brown eye, or have one eye that segments into two different colors.
If you notice any unusual appearance in your baby’s eye color, contact your pediatrician. They may refer you to an ophthalmologist.
Predicting Eye Color
Because there is still a lot that is not understood about the interplay among genes and their role in determining eye color, it is hard to make predictions about what shade your baby's eyes will end up being. But there are some probabilities that are worth noting:
- Two blue-eyed parents: There is a high probability that the baby will have blue eyes, but this isn't guaranteed.
- Two brown-eyed parents: Odds are that the baby will have brown eyes, but if either or both parents have family members with blue or lighter-shade eyes, there is a chance that the baby could have an eye color other than brown.
- One blue-eyed parent, one brown-eyed parent: There is about a 50/50 chance that the child will have blue eyes.
- One or both parents with green or hazel eyes: The baby could have green or hazel eyes, but it is difficult to know for sure.
Generally, changes in eye color go from light to dark. So if your child initially has blue eyes, their color may turn green, hazel, or brown. But if your baby is born with brown eyes, it is unlikely that they are going to become blue.
It is impossible to predict a baby's eye color just by looking at the parents' eyes. The process is much more complicated than that.
Eye Color and Light Sensitivity
People with blue, grey, or green eyes tend to be more light-sensitive than people with brown or black eyes. In fact, people with lighter eyes often experience photophobia, or light sensitivity, causing them to squint in sunlight or feel fatigued after sitting under fluorescent lights for a while.
This sensitivity is due to the fact that people with light eyes have less pigmentation in multiple layers of their eyes. As a result, they are unable to block out the effects of bright lights or sunlight. With this in mind, parents should keep an eye on their kids when they are outside and look for signs that their child may need a break from the sunlight. Regardless of your baby's eye color, it is best to protect their eyes when outside with sunglasses that offer UV protection.
Choose sunglasses that include both UVB and UVA protection in order to block both forms of ultraviolet lights and keep your baby’s eyes safe.
Keep Your Baby's Eyes Safe
Your baby's eyes are sensitive, so you'll want to make sure you take care to keep your baby's eyes clean and protected from injury. First, during the initial months after birth, you may notice a slight discharge from your baby's eyes. Carefully clean away this discharge when you are bathing them. You want to avoid constantly wiping your baby's eyes with a tissue or washcloth.
Second, be careful about what you allow your baby to play with. Babies have very little muscle control, so it is not uncommon for them to poke themselves in the eye. In fact, unintentional eye injuries are common even in infancy and, in some cases, can lead to permanent vision loss. Instead, give your baby safe, age-appropriate toys.
Finally, you'll want to pay attention to your baby's eye alignment. While it is natural for a little squinting or misalignment to exist in the first few months, if it continues past the age of 6 months or if their eyes seem shaky in any way, talk to your pediatrician. They may refer you to an ophthalmologist.
Eye color is not immune from myths and mystery. One legend states a person with blue eyes sees heaven and brown eyes see earth — so someone with one brown and one blue eye can see both. It’s also been speculated that those with blue eyes have rich imaginations while people with hazel eyes are passionate, green eyes indicate sharp minds and brown eyes indicate people who are calm with underlying passion.
Science, of course, shows little interest in myths but has found that eye color can tell you a thing or two about a person.
Eye color is created by melanin, which also dictates skin color. The more melanin in your iris, which is the colored area surrounding the pupil, the darker your eye color will be. Caucasian babies are born with no melanin, and thus have blue eyes, until about three years of age when their eyes darken to its permanent color (Asian and black babies are born with dark brown eyes). More melanin also means better protection from the sun– the pigment in your eyes literally protects your retina.
Light eyes such as blue, green or grey are more sensitive in sunlight. Most people are sensitive to sudden light, such as walking out of a dark hallway on a sunny day. But, if you find yourself needing to wear sunglasses even indoors, it might be a sign of a more serious condition.
Age-related macular degeneration is more common in Caucasians than African Americans, as eyes with less pigment allow more light in the eye. But, studies show people with dark brown eyes are subject to greater risk for developing cataracts. Protecting your eyes from direct sunlight can lower this risk, though.
If nothing else, your eye color should give you an excuse to buy a new pair of shades!