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Spit test ‘could predict death’

Spit test ‘could predict death’

If you could find out how long you’ll be alive, would you want to know? It might sound like the start of a bad sci-fi movie, but scientists have discovered a way to predict life expectancy… using spit. Yes that’s right, apparently the secret is bound up in our saliva.

A team from the University of Birmingham took samples from 639 people in 1995 and kept a close eye on them over the next 19 years. They discovered that levels of an antibody called secretory immunoglobulin A (IgA) significantly reduced as a person comes to the end of their life.

IgA is now being viewed as a mortality marker, with the team explaining this is an important finding because testing it is not invasive. It’s suggested checking someone’s spit could become part of a general health check.

“There are a number of factors that can affect how well we produce antibodies and maintain their levels,” Dr Anna Phillips explained in journal PLOS ONE.

“There are some that we have no control over, such as age, heritability or illness, but our general state of health can also affect their levels; stress, diet, exercise, alcohol and smoking can all influence those levels.”

At the moment how a saliva sample can be used during health checks hasn’t been decided on, in part because more research is needed. For example, doctors would need to know the exact level of the antibody which was problematic. Currently, the team just know that very low levels mean mortality could be knocking.

Spit has been a pretty hot topic of late, with other studies suggesting it can also be used to show whether someone has an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and some cancers.

There are online quizzes which can help determine when you are likely to die too, but they aren’t recommended. It’s much more positive to focus on your general wellbeing if you are concerned about illness. Simple things like eating an abundance of fruit and vegetables, cutting back on alcohol and taking part in regular exercise – even just a walk a few times a week – will be beneficial.

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