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Analysis of milk teeth could be used to predict health risks in modern children


Milk teeth from Anglo Saxon children could help identify which modern children are at risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, researchers suggest.

Scientists at the University of Bradford have published findings from a new analysis in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

They report on a study of milk teeth from under nourished skeletons based on a 10th Century settlement in Raunds, Northamptonshire.

Children of different ages were examined to assess who survived the first 1,000 days following conception, as well as biomarkers for stress and factors such as height.

They discovered that dentine (tooth tissue) provided a dependable gauge of the effects of diet and health, compared with bone. This is because teeth continue to grow under stress and also record high nitrogen values than bone, which provides a clearer picture of development before birth.

Markers in the dentine were then used to discover the health of both mother and child before birth, as well as a child’s template for future development.

Dr Julia Beumont, lecturer in biological anthropology at the University of Bradford, believes the same research can be applied to youngsters today.

This could help to discover their risk of developing conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease to enable preventative measures to be put in place.

“By analysing the milk teeth of modern children in the same way as the Anglo Saxon skeletons, we can measure the same values and see the risk factors they are likely to face in later life, enabling measures to be taken to mitigate such risks,” said the researchers.

“There is a growing consensus that factors such as low birth weight have a significant impact on our likelihood of developing conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity and that the first 1,000 days from conception onwards set our ‘template’.”

This is fascinating research, particularly if the findings eventually extend to shedding light on the development of type 1 diabetes and other conditions. Although we do know that diet plays a significant role in the development of type 2 diabetes, and eating a healthy, real-food diet can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

Picture: University of Bradford

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