Ever wonder why some people look old before their time and others have a definite Benjamin Button vibe gong on? Listen up — science wants to shed some light on this particular injustice.
According to a team from Erasmus University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, who conducted a study into “perceived age,” it’s all down to genetics and to one gene in particular — MC1R, aka the “aging gene.”
The knowledgeable science guys say that around half of us are lucky enough to have genes that make them look younger than they are, regardless of how many crinkles and wrinkles they have. This means the other half can blame their DNA for looking older than their years.
You’re probably asking, How the hell did they come to this crazy conclusion? Well, the researchers showed volunteers pictures of more than 4,000 men and women and asked the volunteers to guess their ages. Then, they looked at the DNA of the people in the pictures to determine whether those who looked younger or older than their age had certain genes. They discovered the first part of human DNA — the genetic code — that seems to affect how old people look to others.
Genes come in pairs, and around 6 percent of those who took part in the study were born with two copies of the aging gene, which means they look two years older than those who don’t carry it at all. Around 43 percent have one copy of this gene and look one year older than they are. And everyone else is fortunate enough not to have this gene at all — meaning they retain their youthful looks for longer.
When they delved deeper, the researchers found that those who had been aged by the gene didn’t have any more wrinkles than those not affected by it. Nor were they any more likely to be sun-worshippers. The researchers haven’t yet figured out exactly how this gene ages us, but their educated guess is that it leads to certain features, including age spots, red veins and sagging skin.
It’s good news for our red-haired friends because MC1R comes in many different variants, many of which cause red hair (it’s even been nicknamed “the ginger gene”). But for all the non-redheads out there, this study may be more than just some interesting (or depressing, depending on whether you have the aging gene or not) science. The team behind the study hopes to find more genes and find ways to help everyone look younger for longer in the future.
In the meantime, let’s just embrace our changing faces, wrinkles and all.