Remember when your grandmother thought you’re much older than you actually were? It was a soul-destroying experience – and don’t try to deny it.
When somebody inaccurately guesses your age by more than a couple of years in the wrong direction, you might have to reel in those hurt feelings.
However, a new discovery made by scientists has shed a little light on exactly why people might believe you’re older than you actually are. More precisely, they believe a genetic combo might explain why some individuals look old before their time.
Published in the journal Current Biology, the study claims that the MC1R gene in certain variations can add as much as two years to the age people perceive on the face of an individual.
The study’s authors also presented the rather peculiar finding that these genetic variants don’t add this perceived age in the usual ways – no liver spots, crows’ feet or other features of the sort.
Instead, experts are still unable to explain how the MC1R variants add the undesirable years in perceived age. Any combination of much slighter changes could be responsible – deeper wrinkles, movements in facial structure, changes in lip height – or something else entirely.
“[The gene is] linked with how old you look and not necessarily with how old you are,” according to lead author Manfred Kayser, a researcher at Erasmus MC University Medical Center Rotterdam in the Netherlands.
However, Kayser insists that the relevance of the studies lays in something more than hurt feelings and vanity. In reality, there is a connection between how old you look and how healthy you are.
Even before this study was conducted, previous research has emphasized the possibility that our genetic programming could influence the likelihood of our skin being damaged by the sun.
But for this case, researchers were particularly interested in the relationship between genetics and perceived age. Teams were asked to guess exactly how old 2,700 Dutch seniors were so researchers could see how the respective individual’s genetics were impacted by perceived age.
MC1R – previously known only for being responsible for freckles and red hair – appeared to have a massive importance in determining exactly who came across much older than their actual age.
However, there were many factors, such as body mass index (BMI) and smoking, that were not taken into consideration. Both of these could dramatically affect skin health, which means the study’s findings could not be conclusive.
Image Source: Telegraph.co.uk