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Longer Life For People With Younger Looks?

December 14, 2009

A new study shows that people blessed with youthful faces are more likely to live to a ripe old age than those who look older than their years, BBC News reported.

Appearance alone can predict survival, according to Danish scientists who studied 387 pairs of twins.

The study asked nurses, trainee teachers and peers to guess the age of the twins from mug shots, and those rated younger-looking tended to outlive their older-looking sibling.

The British Medical Journal reports that the researchers also found a plausible biological explanation for their results, as key pieces of DNA called telomeres, which indicate the ability of cells to replicate, are also linked to how young a person looks.

Experts say that a telomere of shorter length is thought to signify faster aging and has even been linked with a number of diseases.

The participants in the study who looked younger had longer telomeres.

However, all of the twins were in their 70s, 80s or 90s when they were photographed.

Professor Kaare Christensen of the University of Southern Denmark found that the bigger the difference in perceived age within a pair, the more likely it was that the older-looking twin died first.

Throughout the study’s seven-year follow-up, the age, sex and professional background of the assessors made no difference to any of the results.

It might be that people who have had a tougher life are more likely to die early – and their life is reflected in their face, said Christensen.
 
“Perceived age, which is widely used by clinicians as a general indication of a patient’s health, is a robust biomarker of ageing that predicts survival among those aged over 70,” the researchers wrote.

Professor Tim Spector, a UK expert who has been doing his own twin research, said it is likely a combination of genes plus environment over a lifetime that are important.

The findings also show that people are good at assessing how well someone is and that doctors should eyeball their patients, according to Spector.

“If a patient looks older than their years then perhaps they should be more concerned,” he said.

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