Brain and Body

Can Chewing Predict When You'll Die?

October 27, 2015 | Reece Alvarez

girl chewing
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A new study indicates that, like the mechanical parts of a car, the human body suffers wear and tear over time — it may even be possible to estimate lifespan by measuring this deterioration.

Is the human body just a collection of parts that breakdown over time until they need replacing? If so, is it possible to estimate our lifespan by measuring this slow breakdown of our vital parts? Maybe, scientists say.

Studying the masseter muscles in particular, strong and prominent chewing muscles in the jaw used by all mammals, researchers at Yeditepe University in Istanbul believe that by measuring the wear and tear on the muscle it may actually be possible to estimate a person’s lifespan — somewhat similar to estimating the mileage one will get out of a car based on the known lifespan of the critical parts.

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The recent find was announced by Inderscience and published in the International Journal of Exergy.

According to the announcement, the Second Law of Thermodynamics states the precise opposite of the optimistic phrase "things can only get better." In fact, the disorder in a closed system, its entropy, always eventually increases. In other words, things can only get worse.

While we live and breathe, our bodies have repair systems for mending damaged tissues, but they do suffer wear and tear, mainly through friction. Nevertheless, Mustafa Özilgen of the Department of Food Engineering at Yeditepe University and colleagues point out that the lifespan entropy concept suggests that organisms have a limited capacity for generating disorder during their lifetime. When that limit is reached, the organism dies, essentially "of natural causes."

A person living out an average modern lifespan of 76 years will generate 10 kilojoules per degree Kelvin of entropy in their masseter chewing muscles from the time they are born until they die. An obese person, who may be consuming 10 percent more nutrients than a slim friend, may generate that same amount of entropy five years earlier. A more efficient body, and specifically more efficient muscles, will take longer to generate entropy. As such, the team says, it should be possible to determine entropy of the masseter muscles under laboratory conditions by recording precise energy measurements of the tissue while a person chews, and in turn, provide an estimate of lifespan based on the likely quantities of food they eat throughout their lives.

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