Red-heads look younger thanks to their ‘ginger gene’

Red headed man and woman

People with ginger hair stay younger looking for longer thanks to the MC1R gene, which is also responsible for their red locks.

That is according to research from scientists at Erasmus University in Rotterdam.

The team studied the faces of 2,700 elderly Dutch Europeans and found that people who carried the gene looked an average of two years younger than they actually were.

Red headed man and woman

The MC1R gene is what gives carriers red hair and fair skin and is also responsible for DNA damage repair.
Prof Dr Manfred Kayser, was one of the co-writers of the study.

He said: “For the first time, a gene has been found that explains in part why some people look older and others younger for their age.

“Looking young for one’s age has been a desire since time immemorial. The desire is attributable to the belief that appearance reflects health and fecundity.”

Images of faces from the front and side were analysed by a 3D image assessment system.

They looked for over 25 aspects of the face including pigmented spots, wrinkles, skin tone, and face shape.

After gathering as much information as possible, the team put the data into an algorithm, which gave an estimated age of the person.

Now their research could open the door for new studies into molecular biology of aging and the possibility of combatting the aging process.

Prof Kayser said: “Our study provides new leads for further investigating the biological basis of how old or young people look

The Dutch team’s work has been replicated in France where a team had similar results after studying the faces of 530 middle-aged women.

The French also concluded that the MC1R variant could be related to the aging process.

Dr David Gunn, of Unilever, which participated in the study, said: “The perception of age is one of the best and most exciting ways to measure how well people are ageing, which we hope will lead to further breakthroughs in health and ageing research.”

Written by Michael Kehoe @michaelcalling

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