Good genes for beauty? More–it’s ‘gene expression’By Cheche V. Moral
Philippine Daily Inquirer
When we see people who look young for their age, we quickly say it’s because they have good genes.
Joseph Chang, Ph.D, in his New York Times best-selling book published last year, “The Aging Myth: Unlocking the Mysteries of Looking and Feeling Young,” said this is right but not entirely accurate.
The United States-based Malaysian-born research scientist says that everyone essentially has good genes. But it is in the so-called “gene expression,” or how our genes talk to our cells, that determines how well or fast we age. To follow his logic, a person may look young not simply because s/he has good genes, but because s/he has good gene expression.
Chang, chief scientific officer and executive vice president for product development of Nu Skin Enterprises, the Utah-based direct-selling company, claimed he and his team of scientists have isolated the genes that control aging, and that has resulted in ageLOC, Nu Skin’s line of so-called “super class” of anti-aging food supplements and skin solutions, which first debuted several years ago.
This month, Nu Skin rolls out the latest additions to the ageLOC range: the ageLOC Galvanic Body Spa, a DIY home spa system that ensures 10 times better delivery of anti-aging and body-shaping products into the skin; and ageLOC R2, day and night blends of nutritional supplements.
“We now know the genes that control skin aging, brain aging, heart aging, etc.,” Chang said in a recent interview in Singapore. “That’s where the supplements come in. We found the natural ingredients that can influence those genes… We’re resetting aging. We’re slowing it down.”
Chang likens the body to a symphony. “When you play Beethoven, there are different sections in the orchestra. You need them to play in the same way but not with the same volume.”
To illustrate, Chang in his book cites the gene that controls collagen production. When a person is young, s/he produces a lot of collagen, meaning there’s “high expression.” Meanwhile, collagenase, which is responsible for breaking down collagen to make way for the production of fresh collagen, has low expression, resulting in perfect balance. Ergo, youthful-looking skin.
When one ages, however, the gene expression does the exact opposite: the collagenase breaks down collagen faster than it can be replaced. That’s where ageLOC comes in: to restore the balance.
Anti-aging is the core of Nu Skin’s business, and ageLOC its hero product line. Unlike other skincare companies that have put greater focus on skin whitening, a major business category especially in Asia, Nu Skin has stuck to its guns and continues to hinge its growth in the region with the anti-aging business.
(In October next year, Nu Skin will introduce its weight-loss product as a result of tapping into the so-called “fat gene.”)
“We also have a whitening line, which is doing well in the Philippines. But as a company, we want to focus where we’re really good at,” said Melissa Tantoco Quijano, the Filipina president of Nu Skin for Pacific and Southeast Asia. Quijano, with Nu Skin president and chief executive Truman Hunt, recently hosted and feted some 6,000 of its top Southeast Asian distributors in Singapore.
“Direct-selling companies like us,” she added, “have a greater pressure to have really good products. We know our customers and they tell us immediately if the product is great or if there’s something we need to improve on. Second, we sell to family and friends. The fastest way to lose a friend is to sell them a really bad product. So it takes meticulous care. You can’t make it really cheap because then you can’t make it really good.”
Nu Skin, founded in 1984, is now available in 53 countries and was first introduced in Asia 15 years ago. Race is factored in in the anti-aging research, according to Chang.
Aging for Asians, for instance, shows in blemishes and spot and uneven complexion. Caucasians, in contrast, tend to get more lines and wrinkles when they age.
“When you go down to the genetic level, the changes are very similar,” said Chang. “Only the physical outcome is different between races.”
The outcome also varies from one individual to the next, he added, that’s why one person may get quicker or more dramatic results from anti-aging products than the next guy.
As Asians, we’ve already figured out certain steps to decelerate signs of aging, said Chang. “We’re the only race that uses an umbrella when it’s not raining,” he said, underscoring the sun’s UV rays as one of the biggest external factors that influences skin aging. Apart from a proper diet, exercise, enough sleep (“at least six hours”), and not smoking, one must “think well,” Chang advised. “Depressed people don’t look good.”
The Asian diet may also contribute to youthful skin, he said. There’s the abundance of colorful fruits. And there’s green tea.
“The way tea leaves is prepared is very important because it preserves its benefits. Black tea is burnt tea. Green tea is steamed tea leaves.”
He also pointed out that there are not enough of the benefits of green tea in products that are labeled as such (cakes, ice creams, pastries). “That’s only for taste.”
Gene expression, he added, is also influenced by one’s diet, environment and lifestyle choices, such that even identical twins can age differently.
“The goal is not just about extending one’s life span, but maintaining the best quality of life.” In his book, Chang talks about the concept of “dying healthy.”
“I am not against aging,” he wrote. “What I am interested in is the science of maintaining health until you die. Nobody minds getting older, but everyone minds looking older and less attractive and having their body feel old. We want to enjoy all the years of our lives, even as we age.”
AgeLOC isn’t meant to replace invasive procedures such as lasers and the like. “But if you use early and regularly, you will not need those procedures until you’re much older,” Chang said.
One must start with an anti-aging regimen as early as age 20, he advised, as the later one starts, the harder it is to reverse the aging process.
“Thing is,” he noted wryly, “when you’re young, you don’t think about aging.”