Study links dental biorhythms to weight gain in teens

Research by the University of Kent has found evidence of a biorhythm in human primary teeth that is associated with weight gain during adolescence.

An international research team led by Dr. Patrick Mahoney of Kent’s School of Anthropology and Conservation has discovered the biorhythm of primary “milk” molars (Retzius periodicity [RP]) is linked to aspects of physical development in early adolescence. A faster dental biorhythm produced smaller weight and mass gains.

RP forms through a circadian-like process, occurring with a repeat interval that can be measured with a resolution of days. Rhythm refers to the period during which tooth enamel forms and is consistent in permanent molars of individuals who do not retain signs of developmental stress. Human modal RP has a cycle of almost seven days but can vary from five to 12 days.

The first of its kind research published by Nature Communications Medicine found that adolescents with a faster biorhythm (five- or six-day cycle) weighed less, gained the least weight, and had the smallest change in body mass index over a period of time. 14 year period. -months compared to those whose biorhythm is slower. Those with a slow biorhythm (seven or eight day cycle) produced the greatest weight gain.

Dental histologists have known about biological rhythm for more than 100 years, but its importance for body mass and growth has emerged recently in studies comparing mammalian species. Research has now focused on the meaning of rhythm for humans.

A surprising finding was that participants with slower biorhythms were six times more likely to have a very high body mass index. Rapid change in body size is a natural consequence of adolescence, but excessive weight gain during puberty can have broad health consequences, such as obesity in adulthood.

Dr Mahoney said: ‘This research is an exciting first step. The next step is to determine whether the link we discovered extends to adverse health effects in adults. Potentially, baby teeth can keep a record of this information for years before these results show up in adults.

Dr Gina McFarlane, project histologist (also based in Kent), said: “Our findings offer a new avenue for exploring the links between overweight children and adult health risks. Baby teeth are naturally exfoliated (abandoned) during the childhood years. These discarded teeth contain precise information about a fundamental growth rate that we now know follows adolescent weight gain.

The research paper titled “Dental biorhythm is associated with weight gain in adolescents” is published by Nature Communications Medicine. doi: 10.1038/s43856-022-00164-x. This research project was funded by the Leverhulme Trust.

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