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   Feb 24

Fluoride in water is ‘linked to thyroid problem which causes weight gain, depression and tiredness’, study claims

Study found high levels of fluoride in water is linked to hypothyroidism

Condition is where thyroid gland fails to produce key hormones

A sufferer is therefore likely to gain weight, suffer depression and tiredness

Scientists urge change in public health policy, which promotes water fluoridation to boost the nation’s tooth health

Public Health England dismissed findings and said ‘decades of research… shows no association with reduced thyroid function’ and fluoride

Water fluoridation above a certain level is linked to 30 per cent higher than expected rates of an underactive thyroid. The gland is found in the neck

Weight gain and depression caused by an underactive thyroid is linked to high levels of fluoride in the water supply, scientists have claimed.

A study published today has revealed water fluoridation above a certain level is linked to 30 per cent higher than expected rates of hypothyroidism in England.

The findings have prompted researchers to call for a revision of public health policy, which currently encourages the fluoridation of water to protect the nation’s tooth health.

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral found in water, and certain foods including tea and fish.

Its main benefit is in helping reduce the risk of tooth decay.

As a result the mineral is added to many brands of toothpaste, and in some areas, to the water supply.

But researchers at the University of Kent have warned the mineral may be responsible for triggering underactive thyroids.

Other experts have however, disagreed with their findings, arguing the research methods were flawed.

Public Health England also dismissed the study, adding ‘decades of research tells us that water fluoridation is a safe and effective public health measure, and shows no association with reduced thyroid function’.

Also known as hypothyroidism, the condition prevents the thyroid – a gland in the neck – producing vital hormones.

That in turn, promotes weight gain, causes depression and tiredness in sufferers.

The authors, led by Professor Stephen Peckham, at the university’s Centre for Health Service Studies, conclude: ‘Consideration needs to be given to reducing fluoride exposure, and public dental health interventions should stop [those] reliant on ingested fluoride and switch to topical fluoride-based and non-fluoride-based interventions.’

In England, around 10 per cent of the population – amounting to six million people – live in areas with a naturally or artificially fluoridated water supply of 1mg fluoride per litre of drinking water.

The scientists examined the 2012 levels of fluoride in the drinking water supply, using data provided by the Drinking Water Inspectorate for individual postcodes.

They looked at these fluoride levels in conjunction with the national prevalence of underactive thyroid, diagnosed by GPs at 7,935 of 8,020 surgeries that were eligible for the study in 2012-13.

The researchers also carried out a secondary analysis, comparing two built-up areas.

The West Midlands, an area supplied with fluoridated drinking water, was pitched against Greater Manchester, which was not.

The areas in blue show GP practices where water fluoridation is below 0.3mg per litre, yellow equates to 0.3 to 0.7mg per litre of water, while red shows areas where levels are greater than 0.7mg per litre. The areas highlighted in green are where health authority fluoridation schemes are in place

After noting influential factors, such as female sex and older age – both of which are linked to greater risks of hypothyroidism – the team found a link between rates of the condition and levels of fluoride in the drinking water.

Where fluoride levels were above 0.7mg per litre, they found higher than expected rates of hypothyroidism than in areas with levels below this dilution.

High rates of hypothyroidism were at least 30 per cent more likely in GP practices located in areas with fluoride levels in excess of 0.3mg per litre.

And practices in the West Midlands were nearly twice as likely to report high rates of hypothyroidism as those in Greater Manchester.

The authors note theirs is an observational study, so no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect.

They said they were not able to take into account other potential sources of fluoride, including that found in dental products and food and drink.

But they said their research echoes past studies.

While they were only able to look at diagnosed hypothyroidism, there might also be other cases of impaired thyroid function that have not yet been diagnosed, and treated.

However Professor David Coggon, professor of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the University of Southampton, dismissed the study’s findings, criticising the researchers’ methods.

He said: ‘As epidemiological evidence goes, this is about as weak as it gets.

The scientists argue public health policy, which currently encourages the fluoridation of water to protect the nation’s tooth health, should be revised in light of their research

‘Essentially the researchers have shown that after limited adjustment for demographic differences, there are somewhat higher rates of hypothyroidism – which can result from a number of different diseases – in four areas of England that have higher concentrations of fluoride in drinking water.

‘It is quite possible that the observed association is a consequence of other ways in which the areas with higher fluoride differ from the rest of the country.

‘There are substantially more rigorous epidemiological methods by which the research team could have tested their idea.’

Meanwhile Dr Sandra White, director of Dental Public Health at Public Health England, said the body ‘regularly reviews the evidence base for water fluoridation’.

She said: ‘The totality of evidence, accumulated over decades of research, tells us that water fluoridation is a safe and effective public health measure, and shows no association with reduced thyroid function.

‘PHE’s own assessment of water fluoridation programmes in England found evidence of lower tooth decay rates in children living in fluoridated compared to non-fluoridated areas, and greater reductions among those living in the most deprived areas.’

The study is published online in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

Anti-fluoride lobbyist argues against using the mineral in water

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