In gerontology there are many divisive issues. Surprisingly, fluoridation is one of them. When more than a quarter of older adults do not have their teeth—in some parts of the country like the fluoridated states of Kentucky and West Virginia four out of ten older adults have lost all their teeth—but are still made to drink water that has been fluoridated, there is a clear disregard for older adult health.
There are many reasons for fluoridation. However, scientific studies are inconclusive, of poor quality, and in all cases disregard older adults health—especially those without teeth. In addition, there is the evangelical fervor from both sides of the argument—public health versus personal choice—which muddy an already complex scientific issue.
In 2011, the Japanese researchers Masahiro Kawahara and Midori Kato-Negishi made a forceful argument between aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease. After decades of repeated attempts to discredit this link, the authors point to strong evidence of aluminum as a culprit in forming the amyloid plaques in the brain. This and other studies continue to support the clinical studies done in rats that identify aluminum as toxic for the brain. The only problem was that aluminum does not naturally enter the brain.
There is a barrier between the body and the brain that stops metals reaching the brain. In 2013 Akinrinade ID and his colleagues from Bingham University in Nigeria, showed that the relationship between fluoride and aluminum is important in escaping this barrier. Fluoride combines with aluminum to form aluminum fluoride, which is then absorbed by the body where it eventually combines with oxygen to form aluminum oxide or alumina. Alumina is the compound of aluminum that is found in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease.
Fluorine attaches to aluminum and influences its absorption. Li Fucheng and his colleagues from Beijing, China, described high incidences of osteoporosis, osteomalacia, spontaneous bone fractures and dementia in villages in Guizhou Province, China where they were eating maize which had been baked in fires of coal mixed with kaoline. Kaoline contains aluminum and fluorides. These diseases are very similar to those occurring in European dialysis patients, unwittingly treated with water and gels containing aluminum, which caused a wave of dialysis dementia prior to 1980s.
The implications of this fluoride-aluminum relationship to Alzheimer’s disease are not linear. The solubility of aluminum and probably the ease with which it is absorbed varies markedly with the high acidity and alkalinity of water. In general, however, aluminum is most soluble in acidic water, especially if it contains fluorides
The public health argument for fluoridation has never been made for older adults. Such institutional ageism is bad science and much worse, this is bad public health.