Dental biorhythms track weight gain in teens

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image: Dr Carolina Loch, University of Otago School of Dentistry.
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Credit: University of Otago

Baby tooth growth lines indicate weight gain in early adolescence, a group of international researchers have found.

The lines are biorhythms – markers of the body’s biological clock that control many aspects of metabolism.

Dr Carolina Loch from the University of Otago, School of Dentistry says that all aspects of the body’s metabolism have a clock, some things have a 24 hour circadian rhythm while others have quasi rhythms. weekly.

“We have a marker of this biological clock in days imprinted inside baby teeth,” says Dr. Loch.

“It relates to many aspects of our metabolism, not just tooth growth.”

The study, published in Communication Medicinefound that adolescents with a faster dental biorhythm (five- or six-day cycle) weighed less, gained less weight, and had the smallest change in body mass index over 14 months.

Those with a slow biorhythm (seven or eight day cycle) produced the greatest weight gain.

“Fewer growth lines equals faster biorhythm and faster metabolism.”

Dr. Loch says the results are unique.

“They show a previously unknown link between biorhythm markers in teeth – similar to the growth rings we see in trees, our teeth also show a similar structure – and weight gain,” says Dr Loch.

The research team was led by Dr Patrick Mahoney, from the University of Kent, and included researchers from the University of Auckland, Harvard Medical School and The Ohio State University.

Dr Loch was responsible for the New Zealand section of the project, assisted by Sophie White, research assistant from Otago.

They collected lost baby teeth and took monthly weight, height and leg length measurements from 125 children at 19 schools in Dunedin.

“While teeth have also been collected from other centers (UK, US and France), the New Zealand branch of the project was unique as we actually collect growth data from living participants.”

A surprising finding was that participants with slower biorhythms were six times more likely to have a very high body mass index.

“Although the development of obesity is a multifactorial process and depends on lifestyle, socio-economic and psychological factors, we show that baby teeth may be a biological marker of susceptibility to greater weight gain. in early adolescence, many years before the health risks associated with obesity appear to develop.”

Dr. Mahoney says the research is an exciting first step.

“The next step is to determine whether the link we found extends to adverse health effects in adults,” he says.

“Potentially, baby teeth can keep a record of this information for years before these results show up in adults.”


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