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Bone Health: FAQs

Your bone health questions answered.

I've heard fluoride is good for strong bones, but is fluoridated water safe?

True, fluoride is good for strong bones. It stimulates new bone formation throughout the life cycle, thus offering some protection from developing osteoporosis. Critics claim fluoridated water is unsafe, is ineffective in preventing tooth decay and may cause cancer. However, a critical analysis of the science conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2001 and endorsed by the American Dental Association concluded, “When used appropriately, fluoride is a safe and effective agent that can be used to prevent and control dental caries. Fluoride has contributed profoundly to the improved dental health of persons in the United States and other countries. To ensure additional gains in oral health, water fluoridation should be extended to additional communities, and fluoride toothpaste should be used widely.” Additionally, the American Cancer Society asserts there is no strong evidence for a link between cancer and fluoridated water. The bottom line: If your community water source contains added fluoride, drink it. The general scientific consensus is that fluoride is good for your teeth and bones.

I've heard that vitamin K is good for strong bones. Should I take a supplement?

No. If you eat fruits and vegetables, especially cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower, you’ll get enough vitamin K in your diet. Spinach and strawberries are also good sources. Since vitamin K affects blood clotting, definitely check with your doctor first before supplementing, especially if you’re on blood-thinning medication, such as coumadin.

Do high intakes of vitamin A increase your risk for osteoporosis?

Research supports an association between high intakes of preformed vitamin A (such as that found in animal foods, supplements and fortified foods) and lower levels of bone mineral density, which is a risk factor for osteoporosis. However, scientists are not at a point where they can explain the cause of this, and they can’t exclude the potential that this link might be caused by something other than vitamin A. More research is needed in this area, so stay tuned. In the meantime, it’s best to get most of your vitamin A by eating plenty of deep-orange fruits and vegetables (think: carrots, sweet potatoes, etc.) and leafy green vegetables (e.g., spinach and kale), which supply good amounts of beta carotene. The body converts beta carotene to vitamin A. Getting loads of beta carotene from foods doesn’t pose any health risk. Eat too many carrots and—worst-case scenario—your skin may take on a yellow tinge (the unconverted beta carotene collects under your skin). This condition is harmless and temporary.

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