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People with low cortisol levels have younger looking face for longer

The less cortisol there is in your body, the younger people are likely to guess you are, researchers at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands discovered. People with relatively low levels of cortisol can look up to four years younger than people with high cortisol levels. By the way, in people who have special longevity genes cortisol does not speed up the aging of the face. These people are in some way protected against the pro-aging effect of cortisol.


The publication that this posting is about dates from 2012 and it discusses data collected in the Leiden Longevity Study. In that project gerontologists at the University of Leiden studied a group of several hundred Dutch people, all born in families in which unusually large numbers of people lived to an unusually old age.

For the 2012 study, the researchers showed photos of the faces of the participants in the Longevity Study to a panel who had to guess the age of the people in the photos. The researchers measured the amount of cortisol those same participants had in their blood in the morning.

After the researchers had filtered out factors such as chronological age, sex, bodyweight, smoking and medicine use, they saw that participants' age was estimated to be older the higher their morning cortisol level was. For every 0.1 micromole per litre more cortisol they looked 0.42 years older.

The Dutch researchers then looked at the participants with long-lived family members, who probably carried a number of longevity genes, and the participants in the control group, who probably had an average gene package.

The researchers discovered that the cortisol level speeded up aging in the face of those in the control group only. For every 0.1 micromole per litre more cortisol they looked 0.81 years older.

The figure below shows the relationship between perceived age and cortisol level in the control group. The researchers filtered out factors like chronological age, sex, bodyweight and medicine use, and divided the participants into three equal-sized groups according to their cortisol levels.

People with low cortisol levels have younger looking face for longer

The participants with low cortisol levels looked almost four years younger than the participants with high cortisol levels.

"The main conclusions of the current study are twofold", the researchers wrote in their concluding paragraph. "First, higher levels of serum morning cortisol levels associated with a higher perceived age."

"Second, although the controls with high cortisol levels looked significantly older than those with lower levels, such a relationship was not seen in the offspring, suggesting these offspring have a more stress-resistant phenotype."

"Additional rhythmic cortisol studies will provide greater sensitivity for confirming the relationship between cortisol levels, perceived age and familial longevity in the future."

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2012 Oct;37(10):1669-75.

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