Scientists say they have discovered a way of finding out that age by creating a 3D scan of facial features. These 3D images are a composite of two sets of male faces, showing the average facial structure for each age group. The left image shows the average of the 17-29 year-old man,  and the right 60-77 year-old man

Many of us may feel, and look, older than our years.

But our biological age – which can vary significantly from our real age – often remains a mystery.

Now scientists say they can accurately estimate biological age by creating a 3D scan of wrinkles and other facial features.

Jing-Dong Han  and colleagues at the Chinese Academy of Sciences collected 3D images of 332 Chinese people between the ages of 17 and 77 using a camera called the 3dMDface System.

Using the data, the authors created a map of the ageing human face and were able to develop a method to find patterns of ageing based on certain facial features.

According to the study, mouth width, nose width and the distance between the mouth and nose increase with age, while the corners of the eyes start to droop.

Young faces are smoother and thinner, while people with older faces had more fat build up and fuller cheeks, as well as sagging skin.

They also discovered signs in people's blood associated with the markers of aging that appear on people's faces.

Women with older-looking faces, for example, tended to have higher levels of 'bad' cholesterol, the study found.

Men older-aged faces often had lower levels of albumin in their blood samples, a protein found in plasma.

'3D facial images can really tell your biological age,' the study's senior researcher Jing-Dong Han, told LiveScience. 'It's really more accurate than a physical exam.'

They found that up until the age of 40, people of the same chronological age could differ by up to six years in facial age.

Over the age of 40, variation in facial age increased.

The technique was used to identify participants who were physiologically ageing faster or more slowly than their chronological age would suggest.

These results were supported by indicators for health and age in blood samples taken from the volunteers.

The researchers say their model could help identify people who age physiologically faster and tailor treatment to their needs.

The results could be different among different ethnicities, and the researchers now hope to conduct a further study among a sample that includes Americans.

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