The key to looking youthful could be down to one’s genes, new study suggests.
Scientists have unlocked part of the secret to youthful looks by identifying a gene variation which is linked to how old people are perceived to be.
Researchers from the Erasmus MC University Medical Center Rotterdam in The Netherlands identify the culprit as certain varieties of the MC1R gene. But the newly discovered genetic varieties do not cause wrinkles or liver spots on the skin.
However, it makes people look older in some undefined way which is not yet understood by researchers. Among the possibilities that scientists are considering is the gene affects facial structure such as lip height, and deeper crease between the nose and corners of the mouth.
Manfred Kayser, study co-author, stresses that the MC1R gene is linked with how old a person looks, not how old the person really is. He says that is more important because “there is a link between how old you look and how healthy you are.”
The study, published in Current Biology, involves David Gunn, a scientist from Unilever, a company that manufactures personal-care products. The scientists asked teams of people to estimate the age of 2,700 elderly Dutch. For those whom people consider looking older than their real age, the researchers looked for DNA common among them. After identifying the gene, the team repeated the experiment with 600 additional older Dutch and 1,200 British seniors.
MC1R is the gene linked with red hair and freckles and is involved in DNA repair in the skin which could add years to the face.
However, Anne Chang of Stanford University Medical School notes that the study excludes the impact of smoking and body-mass index. Gunn adds that genetics account for only half of aging as he points to sun exposure and poor dental health as also contributing factors which make people look older.