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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Health Note

Air Date: Week of

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Living on Earth's Diane Toomey reports on a new study that used fluoride to treat women with osteoporosis.


CURWOOD: Just ahead, creepy crawly crime solvers. First, this Environmental Health Note from Diane Toomey.

TOOMEY: Drugs that treat osteoporosis are limited in their effectiveness since they're primarily aimed at slowing down bone loss rather than building new bone. On the other hand, fluoride has been shown to stimulate new bone formation, but at a price. Fluoride can cause gastrointestinal problems including pain, nausea and bleeding. And some research indicates that the bone formed through fluoride stimulation is brittle. In fact, some studies have shown that fluoride treatment can actually increase the rate of bone fractures. But in a recent study, researchers used a special form of fluoride that was both low dose and time released. The results seem promising. The study looked at two groups of older women diagnosed with osteoporosis. One group received a combination of calcium and vitamin D. A second group also received fluoride. Over a three and a half year period, the rate of vertebra fractions in women who took fluoride was almost 70% lower, compared to the group who didn't use it. As expected, bone density in the spines of the women who received fluoride increased. But researchers also found that this low-dose fluoride did not produce any significant side effects, and the bone that was formed was of normal quality. The authors of this paper caution this treatment is experimental and the fluoride used in this study is a specially formulated drug not yet available on the market. That's this week's Health Update. I'm Diane Toomey.

CURWOOD: And you're listening to Living on Earth.



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