Fluoride Fractures and Fragile Bones

The second most frequently cited claim of fluoride's health benefits is that it strengthens bones. Many doctors have even suggested it as a treatment for osteoporosis. But carefully conducted studies have demonstrated conclusively that not only does it not strengthen the long bones, such as the femur and radius, it actually weakens them. To date we have over eight studies reported in peer-reviewed medical journals demonstrating increased hip fractures with fluoridation. Most studies have shown that fluoride treatments do increase the density of the axial skeleton (the spine) but clinical studies have not shown a significant reduction in spinal fractures in the elderly.

In one review of all articles reporting on the use of fluoride to treat postmenopausal osteoporosis, Dr. Louis Avioli, professor at the Washington University School of Medicine, concluded that the use of fluoride was accompanied by so many complications and side effects that it was not worth using in cases of postmenopausal osteoporosis, especially since it increased the risk of hip fractures and other stress fractures in the arms and legs.

One study examined Utah's Mormon community and demonstrated that fluoridation increased the incidence of hip fracture by 27 percent in women and 41 percent in men.130

Another interesting study by Dr. Mary Fran Sowers and co-workers examined 827 women aged twenty to eighty years in three rural Iowa communities over a five-year period for bone mineral density and incidence of fractures.131 The study was unusual for several reasons. First, they looked at both young, premenopausal women as well as postmenopausal women. Second, they compared water systems not only containing varying amounts of fluoride but also concentrations of calcium.

What they found was that the communities with the highest fluoride water content also had the highest incidence of fractures and reductions in bone mineral density when compared to communities with higher calcium contents and no or low amounts of fluoride. Most shocking was that even the young women in fluoridated communities had significantly reduced bone mineral density than did women in the control community or in communities with high calcium levels in the drinking water. Bone mineral density measures the strength of the bone and estimates the likelihood of fracture.

The young women, as well as postmenopausal older women, had a significantly higher risk of having fractures of the wrist, hip, and spine than did those living in the control community or the community containing high calcium levels in the drinking water. The incidence of multiple fractures in all age groups of the study was 220 percent higher in the community with high drinking water fluoride content.

The importance of appropriate calcium intake cannot be overemphasized. Fluoride drastically lowers calcium levels by binding tightly with this essential mineral and removes substantial amounts of calcium from the blood, bones, and teeth, which become deminer-alized and weakened. One study using a CT scanner to measure bone density found that fluoride did increase the amount of cancellous bone (spongy, lattice-like bony tissue) but reduced the strength of the cortical bone (firm outer layer).132 So, it may be that fluoride weakens the bone by diverting calcium from the cortex of the bone, which accounts for most of its strength, to the cancellous bone, which provides very little strength. Fluoride also is toxic to osteoblast type cells, which normally lay down calcium in the cortical layer of the bones.

In the past I have been a critic of our nation's obsession with calcium supplementation. Doctors have been leading the charge to convince women, especially postmenopausal women, to gulp down a daily allotment of calcium in every form imaginable, from Turns to crushed oyster shells. My objection has been based on the effect of excess calcium on the degenerative process, especially in the brain—a condition I discussed earlier—yet, supplemental calcium may actually afford some protection against some of the toxic effects of fluoride, especially dental and skeletal fluorosis. Unfortunately, one fairly recent study indicates that even calcium supplementation may not be protective against fluoride-induced calcium loss.133 If this is so, the only solution is to remove fluoride from drinking water and teeth-cleaning products.

Taken together, these studies indicate that certain groups of individuals are at significantly increased risk of fractures when consuming fluoridated drinking water and using fluoride-containing products. This includes people with low calcium intake, renal disease, parathyroid disorders, genetic risk for osteoporosis, and diets low in magnesium and vitamin C intake.

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