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Boning up on fluoride.

Boning up on fluoride

Fluoride, noted for fighting cavities, also can fortify the porous inner layer of the skeleton. French researchers now report that daily doses of fluoride along with calcium supplements can strengthen bone in some people stricken with osteoporosis.

For millions of postmenopausal women who develop osteoporosis, bones become brittle and prone to fracture, especially in the hips and spine. Calcium deficiencies are known to intensify the disease, bu calcium supplements by themselves have failed to reverse it.

Although physicians have toyed with fluoride treatments to restore bone mass since 1961, they have long questioned the strength of such bone. Researchers from several French institutions report in the Aug. 13 LANCET that they have completed the first formal randomized test of the safety and effectiveness of fluoride-calcium combination therapy.

Similar studies are at the brink of completion at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

In France, 257 osteoporosis patients took 50-milligram doses of sodium fluoride daily, plus a calcium and a vitamin D supplement. At the same time, 209 other patients received standard calcium treatments not involving the use of fluoride. All were between ages 50 and 92; of the 466 participants, 421 were women.

The group treated with fluoride had a significantly lower rate of vertebral crush fractures, an indication of bone strength, the scientists say. Of the 316 followed for the full two years of the study, 39 percent of the fluoride group reported at least one new fracture per year, compared with 51 percent of the nonfluoride group.

But there were notable side effects in the French study, many of them gastrointestinal. The most prevalent was pain in the ankles and feet of 39 members of the fluoride group compared with 10 of the nonfluoride. Lawrence Riggs, head of the Mayo Clinic study, attributes the pain to the rapid turnover of bone.

Also, the mass of the outer layers of bone actually decreased after fluoride treatment, possibly heightening the risk of hip fractures, according to the French researchers. Still, they say the benefits of treatment outweighed the side effects.

On the basis of his preliminary data, Riggs predicts fluoride will probably be useful for some selected patients but will not prove a miracle drug for osteoporosis. Adds Evelyn Phillips of the Henry Ford Hospital, "There are seldom miracle drugs fro chronic diseases, but there's always something you can do."
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Title Annotation:use with osteoporosis patients
Author:Beil, Laura
Publication:Science News
Date:Aug 27, 1988
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