NEW YORK, Jan 21 (Reuters Health) -- Despite concerns that fluoride consumption might weaken bones and increase the risk of fractures, a study from Britain indicates that drinking fluoridated water does not increase the rate of hip fractures.
Fluoridation of water "is not likely to have any important effect on the risk of hip fracture, and... concerns about this potential hazard should not be a reason for withholding the measure," report Dr. Sharon Hillier from University of Southampton, UK, and associates.
In the study, "one of the few investigations that have related fluoride ingestion to the risk of hip fracture in individuals," more than 500 men and women with hip fractures were compared with a similar number of others without hip fractures. According to results published in the January 22nd issue of The Lancet, the chance of fracturing a hip was the same for those who drank water containing fluoride in concentrations of about 1 part per million (ppm) as for those whose water contained less fluoride.
Hip fracture risk was also equivalent between individuals living in areas with low fluoride concentration and those living where there was high fluoride concentration in the drinking water, the investigators note.
Higher fluoride consumption increased the amount of fluoride found in the surfaces of bones, but not in their spongy interiors, the researchers indicate.
Two factors did, however, influence the risk of fractures, Hillier and colleagues found. Thinner individuals -- those with lower body mass indexes -- were more likely to experience hip fractures, as were people who engaged in little physical activity.
In a related editorial, Dr. Clifford Rosen from the Maine Center for Osteoporosis Research and Education in Bangor, Maine, writes that the study is "extremely important because it joins only a handful of previous epidemiological investigations exploring the relation between fluoride ingestion to the risk of hip fractures."
"These data," he adds, "combined with those of (an earlier study), provide compelling evidence that lifelong exposure to fluoridated water does not increase the risk of hip fracture."