Is it possible that too much iron in infant formula may potentially increase risk for neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s in adulthood — and are teeth the window into the past that can help us tell? This and related theories were described in a “Perspectives” article authored by researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the University of Technology Sydney and Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health in Australia, and published online recently in Nature Reviews Neurology.
“Teeth are of particular interest to us for the measurement of chemical exposure in fetal and childhood development: they provide a chronological record of exposure from their microchemical composition in relation to defined growth lines, much like the rings in a tree trunk,” said Manish Arora, BDS, MPH, PhD, Director of Exposure Biology at the Senator Frank Lautenberg Environmental Health Sciences Laboratory at Mount Sinai and Associate Professor in Preventive Medicine and Dentistry at the Icahn School of Medicine. “Our analysis of iron deposits in teeth as a method for retrospective determination of exposure is just one application: we believe teeth have the potential to help track the impact of pollution on health globally.”
Dr. Arora, along with Dominic Hare, PhD, used the dental biomarker technology to distinguish breast-fed babies from formula fed babies. Now this technology can be applied to study the link between early iron exposure and late-life brain diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, which are associated with the abnormal processing of iron. While not all formula fed babies will experience neurodegeneration in adulthood, the combination of increased iron intake during infancy with a predisposition to impaired metal metabolism such as the inability of brain cells to remove excessive metals may damage those cells over time.
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