Fluoride and dementia

Fluoride is classed as a neurotoxin. Dementia, which involves progressive damage to the brain and reduced cognitive functioning, is the second leading cause of death in Australia. This article examines a possible link between the two.
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...it is apparent that fluorides have the ability to interfere with the functioning of the brain and the body by direct and indirect means...”
US National Research Council
2006 review "Fluoride in Drinking Water"
  • A staggering 250 Aussies develop dementia every single day and 1 in 10 of us over 65 have this condition;
  • Dementia is the leading cause of death for females and the third leading cause of death for males;
  • The US NRC highlighted several serious concerns about fluoride’s effect on the brain;
  • Several studies show fluoride and aluminium combined can more easily pass through the brain’s protective barrier;
  • Further fluoride and aluminium/fluoride studies are essential and urgently required.

With around 250 Australians developing dementia every day, many of us have already experienced directly the deterioration of family or friends suffering from this devastating condition.1

The term dementia is used to describe a group of symptoms that cause progressive damage to the brain, manifesting in a gradual decrease in a person’s ability to think, remember and function in regular daily activities.  Changes to personality, mood and difficulty using and/or understanding language may also occur.

Most dementia is irreversible with a number of specific diseases or conditions leading to progressive and permanent damage to brain cells. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of irreversible dementia, accounting for between 50 to 70 per cent of all dementia cases. Other forms include vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, Lewy Body Disease, Huntington’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease.

Some facts on dementia:1

  • In Australia in 2017, dementia was the leading cause of death for females (11%) and the third leading cause of death for males (6%). (ABS);
  • In 2016 there were more than 413,000 Australians with dementia, 183,868 (45%) males and 228,238 (55%) females (NATSEM);
  • Dementia is more common in people over the age of 65 years. However, in 2017, there were approximately 25,938 people with younger onset dementia (before 65);
  • 1 in 10 Australians over the age of 65 have a diagnosis of dementia (AIHW, 2015);
  • 3 in 10 Australians over the age of 85 have a diagnosis of dementia (AIHW, 2015)
  • In 2016 alone, the cost of dementia to society was more than $14 billion (Diabetes Australia).

The USA has also seen an unprecedented increase in dementia in recent decades. Between 1999 and 2014, deaths rates from Alzheimer’s disease in the USA rose by more than 50 per cent.2 The increased rates of dementia in Ireland are similar, in fact one Irish doctor referred to the “exponential growth of dementia” as a “true tsunami with the burden it imposes on increasing numbers of people and their families…”3

Fluoride and links to dementia

Many health officials in Australia remain completely unaware that in 2006, the US National Research Council published the findings of its comprehensive three-year review “Fluoride in Drinking Water”. This review was sponsored by the US Environmental Protection Agency and involved a 12-member panel of scientists and health professionals.

The panel reviewed both animal and human studies and in Chapter 7 of its report, stated:

“…it is apparent that fluorides have the ability to interfere with the functioning of the brain and the body by direct and indirect means…”

“Fluorides also increase the production of free radicals in the brain through several different biological pathways. These changes have a bearing on the possibility that fluorides act to increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.”4

The NRC panel also recommended:

“Studies of populations exposed to different concentrations of fluoride should be undertaken to evaluate neurochemical changes that may be associated with dementia. Consideration should be given to assessing effects from chronic exposure, effects that might be delayed or occur late-in-life, and individual susceptibility.”

“Thus, studies of populations exposed to different concentrations of fluoride in drinking water should include measurements of reasoning ability, problem solving, IQ, and short- and long-term memory. Care should be taken to ensure that proper testing methods are used, that all sources of exposure to fluoride are assessed, and that comparison populations have similar cultures and socioeconomic status.” 4

Fluoride and aluminium

Since 1965, several studies have shown a possible link between aluminium and Alzheimer’s disease, especially in areas with high aluminium levels in drinking water. Fortunately there is a protective barrier between the body and the brain that stops neurotoxic metals such as aluminium reaching the brain. That is, until fluoride is introduced.

In 1998, Varner et al gave three groups of rats either 1ppm sodium fluoride, 1ppm aluminium fluoride or distilled water for a whole year. The exposed rats developed kidney damage, brain damage, greater uptake of aluminium into the brain and beta amyloid deposits characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.5

In 2004, Dr Russell Blaylock, Professor of Biology at Belhaven College, Jackson, Mississippi, published a review titled “Excitotoxicity: a possible central mechanism in fluorine neurotoxicity.” In this review, Baylock stated:

“Compelling evidence indicates that fluoride produces injury to the central nervous system (CNS) by several mechanisms. Of particular interest is the ability of fluoride to induce free radical generation and lipid peroxidation in the brain, especially in the hippocampus. In addition, fluoride enhances aluminium absorption from the gastrointestinal mucosa and across the blood-brain barrier. Of particular concern is the recent demonstration that fluoride readily forms a chemical complex with aluminium, similar to the phosphate ion, which is toxic to neurons at low concentrations and can act as an activator of G-proteins, a membrane link to second messenger activation.”

In October 2006, Dr. Kaneez Fatima Shad, professor of molecular medicine and neuro-physiology at the, University of Karachi, gave a presentation at the annual Society for Neuroscience conference, held in Atlanta, USA. The subject of the presentation was “How Aluminium Fluoride causes Dementia”.

Professor Fatima, who earned her PhD at the University of NSW and her Diploma in Psychiatry from the University of Newcastle, said her initial studies indicated that there are significant neuro-pathological effects when the hippocampus (part of brain which is associated with emotions and memory especially short-term memory) and cortex (main commanding part of brain) tissue cultured neurons were incubated with different concentrations of Aluminium Fluoride and Sodium Fluoride.

“The take-home message is that we are constantly producing the complexes of aluminium and fluoride during our day-to-day activities,” she said. “For example, boiling fluoridated tap water in an aluminium pan extracts almost 200 ppm (about 2mg/litre) of aluminium into the water in 10 minutes. Leaching of up to 600ppm occurs with prolonged boiling,” said Professor Fatima.

“These findings are new and interesting because they support a hypothesis indicating that fluoride and aluminium are involved in the early onset of forgetfulness (dementia). Fluoride is widely used in toothpaste, tea and other processed food and added in drinking water all over the world. Fluoride is added in toothpastes and drinking water to reduce dental cavities. Toothpaste also contains a significant quantity of aluminium and its bio availability may be enhanced by combining it with fluorine to form aluminium fluoride,” she said.

In 2011, a study titled “Aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease: after a century of controversy, is there a plausible link?” was published, with author Lucija Tomljenovic specifically warning; “In the presence of fluoride, only trace amounts of Al are needed to produce substantial neuronal injury. Both fluoride and Al when complexed in AlF–x [fluoroaluminates] appear to be more easily absorbed from the GI [gastrointestinal] tract compared to their ionic forms.”6

In 2013, Akinrinade ID and his colleagues from Bingham University in Nigeria, showed that fluoride and aluminium combined can escape the brain’s protective barrier. This study concluded that fluoride combines with aluminium to form aluminium fluoride, which is then absorbed by the body where it eventually combines with oxygen to form aluminium oxide or alumina. Alumina is the compound of aluminium that is found in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients. “The emerging picture from this investigation as well as others conducted on fluoride and aluminium is that there exists a narrow margin between the recommended intake (1 ppm) and the neurotoxic doses. Therefore, continued monitoring of the exposure of humans to fluoride and aluminium from all sources is required,” said Akinrinade.

According to Mario Garrett, PhD, “The implications of this fluoride-aluminium relationship to Alzheimer’s disease are not linear. The solubility of aluminium and probably the ease with which it is absorbed varies markedly with the high acidity and alkalinity of water. In general, however, aluminium is most soluble in acidic water, especially if it contains fluorides.”

In February 2018, a study titled “Screening of Human Proteins for Fluoride and Aluminum Binding”7 The authors stated:

“Previous studies showed that prolonged exposure to fluoride (F-) and aluminum (Al3+) ions is associated with numerous diseases including neurological disorders. They don’t have any known biological function. But they can bind with proteins that interact with ions similar to them. Several studies show the detrimental effects posed by them including Alzheimer’s disease.
Our findings suggest that fluoride and aluminum both have direct (ion-protein interaction) and indirect (protein-protein interaction) protein targets in the human. They directly bind with 20 proteins (both have 10 targets each), while the indirect binding network has 86 and 90 proteins for fluoride and aluminum, respectively.
More importantly, most of the target proteins are brain-specific; therefore, chronic exposure to these ions could lead to the development of neurological disorders. One recent study showed that Al3+ could play a vital role as a mediator in the formation of fibrillary amyloid plaques in Alzheimer’s disease.”

In December 2018, a study titled “Potential Role of Fluoride in the Etiopathogenesis of Alzheimer’s Disease,” concluded that fluoride may play a key role in the induction and development of inflammation in Alzheimer’s disease and participate in processes of neuro-degeneration. 8

In March 2019, the results of a fluoride-aluminium study were published in the British Journal of Psychiatry. Titled “Aluminium and fluoride in drinking water in relation to later dementia risk,”9the lead author concluded:

“Environmental risk factors for dementia are poorly understood. Aluminium and fluorine in drinking water have been linked with dementia but uncertainties remain about this relationship. In the largest longitudinal study in this context, we set out to explore the individual effect of aluminium and fluoride in drinking water on dementia risk and, as fluorine can increase absorption of aluminium, we also examine any synergistic influence on dementia.
Higher levels of aluminium and fluoride were related to dementia risk in a population of men and women who consumed relatively low drinking-water levels of both.”8

The findings in the 2006 US National Research Council’s review “Fluoride in Drinking Water” alone were enough to trigger further investigation into the link between fluoride and dementia, especially when combined with forms of aluminium.

Based on further research conducted since NRC’s review showing the potential neurotoxicity of fluoride, one would consider reducing the burden of dementia and especially Alzheimer’s disease in Australia a top national-health priority.

Reference notes

  1. Dementia Australia web site.
  2. Christopher A. Taylor etc al., May 2017; “Deaths from Alzheimer’s Disease — United States, 1999–2014”, Centres for Disease Control and Prevention
  3. Article by Catherine Shanahan “Dementia tsunami looms” in Irish Examiner; 25 June 2015. Available here.
  4. National Research Council of the National Academies, Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPA’s Standards, chapter 7. Full PDF available here.
  5. Varner JA, et al., Feb 1998: “Chronic administration of aluminum-fluoride or sodium-fluoride to rats in drinking water: alterations in neuronal and cerebrovascular integrity.” Brain Research.
  6. Tomljenovic L., 2011; “Aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease: after a century of controversy, is there a plausible link?”. Journal of Alzheimers Dis.
  7. Kamrul Hasan, et al., Feb 2018: “Screening of Human Proteins for Fluoride and Aluminum Binding”, Bioinformation. 2018; 14(2): 68–74.
  8. Marta Goschorska, et al, Dec 2018; “Potential Role of Fluoride in the Etiopathogenesis of Alzheimer’s Disease.” International Journal of Molecular Science.
  9. Russ TC, et al, March 2019; “Aluminium and fluoride in drinking water in relation to later dementia risk.” British Journal of Psychiatry.