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Fluoridation and Dementia

Is fluoride in our water promoting dementia?

Since 1962, on the recommendation of the United States Public Health Service, fluoride has been used in the public drinking water supplied to about 2 out of 3 Americans. The decision to add fluoride to drinking water is made locally. The types of fluoride include fluorosilicic acid, sodium fluorosilicate, and sodium fluoride.

Studies have consistently shown positive outcomes for fluoridation in the health of teeth of children, adults and older adults — although these studies have been contested. The bigger contention is whether we need to indiscriminately fluoridate our teeth by ingestion of fluoride through our water supply without being able to control the level of exposure, the varying sensitivity of the recipient, and its accumulation in the body.

Fluoride is also ingested from fruit juices, sodas, popular breakfast cereals, lettuce and raisins and anything grown with pesticides since fluoridation is an effective killer of pests.

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However beneficial the fluoridation is to the health of teeth, it does not tell us the whole story, especially on the overall health of older adults. Since 25 percent of adults 60 years old and older no longer have their natural teeth, the arguments for the benefit of fluoridation is somewhat toothless.

Sodium fluoride is a bone anabolic drug. Healthy adult kidneys excrete 50 to 60 percent of the fluoride ingested each day. The rest accumulates in the body, largely in bones and pineal gland. The fluoride concentration in bone steadily increases over a lifetime and we are more likely to see large concentrations in older adults.  But, the growth in bone quantity might be detrimental.

Christa Danielson and her colleagues compared the incidence of hip fractures in patients 65 years of age or older in three communities where two were without water fluoridated to 1 ppm. Surprisingly, they found a small but significant increase in the risk of hip fracture in both men and women exposed to fluoridation. Other studies have found similar results. Suggesting that low levels of fluoride may increase the risk of hip fracture in the elderly and there seems to be a dose relationship with the higher the concentration of fluoride, the higher the risk of hip fractures. It seems that fluoride may increase bone quantity—osteofluorosis, osteosclerosis—but it might also decrease bone quality and bone strength.

Just as troubling for older adults, is the evidence that Patočka Strunecká and her colleagues from  Charles University in the Czech Republic exposed. They found that long-term action of aluminofluoride complexes may represent a serious and powerful risk factor for the development of Alzheimer’s disease. In another study, rats fed for one year with 1-5 ppm fluoride in their water — the same level used in fluoridation programs—using either sodium fluoride or aluminum fluoride, resulted in the formation of beta-amyloid deposits—associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Since the US Environmental Protection Agency lists fluoride as having “substantial evidence of developmental neurotoxicity,”  we expect to see other negative outcomes of fluoridation. Fluoridation is one area that demand better clinical trials with older adults. Perhaps by eliminating fluoridation we can put some teeth into laws protecting the health of older adults.

 © USA Copyrighted 2014 Mario D. Garrett

Mario Garrett, Ph.D., is a professor at the school of social work, San Diego State University.

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