Baby teeth may hold clues to future health risks

London: A simple test on baby teeth may predict potential health problems in adulthood, such as diabetes and heart disease, scientists say. Researchers from the Universities of Bradford and Durham analysed the teeth of children and adults from two 19th century cemeteries, one at a workhouse in Ireland where famine victims were buried and the other in London, which holds the graves of some of those who fled the famine. They found that the biochemical composition of teeth that were forming in the womb and during a child’s early years not only provided insight into the health of the baby's mother, it even showed major differences between those infants who died and those who survived beyond early childhood. Earlier, the work led by Dr Janet Montgomery and Dr Mandy Jay from Durham’s Department of Archaeology found similar results in people living in the Iron Age on the Isle of Skye and in Neolithic Shetland. These archaeological findings - published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology - are now being tested in baby teeth from children born recently in Bradford and Sudan. If similar patterns are seen in current day mothers and children, researchers hope this could lead to a simple test on baby teeth to predict potential health problems in adulthood. Levels of carbon and nitrogen isotopes within bone and teeth and the relationship between the two, change with different diets. The first permanent molar also forms around birth and is retained into adulthood. Each layer of the tooth relates to around four months' growth, starting in the womb, enabling it to be linked to a specific period of a baby's life. Nitrogen isotope levels are higher in people on protein rich diets and in breastfed babies, and lower for vegetarian diets. However, in samples taken from the famine cemetery, babies who showed higher nitrogen isotope levels at birth didn’t survive into adulthood. Those who did survive had lower and more stable nitrogen isotope levels throughout early childhood. Similar results were found among Victorians buried in the London cemetery who lived during a period of high rates of infant death and among the prehistoric people in Scotland. Lead researcher Dr Julia Beaumont from Bradford’s School of Archaeological Sciences believes that, far from being an indicator of a good start in life, the higher nitrogen isotope levels showed that the mothers were malnourished and under stress. “If we can show that baby teeth, which are lost naturally, provide markers for stress in the first months of life, we could have an important indicator of future health risks, such as diabetes and heart disease," she said. PTI. Source: Article

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