Finding the Fluoride in You
The researchers made phone call after phone call through long days
and weekends. Undaunted by hang-ups and answering machines, they soldiered
on. In the end, no one could have predicted it would take 1,500 calls
and more than 3 weeks to get the results they sought.
Three scientists, who are with the ARS
Nutrient Data Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, ultimately found 144
residents from U.S. households nationwide who agreed to give them two
tap water samples for the sake of science. The project is part of an
overarching collaboration among four organizations to build a fluoride
Nutritionist Pamela Pehrsson headed sampling, nutritionist Rena Cutrufelli
headed beverage research, and analytical chemist Kristine Patterson
headed quality control.
"The sample set had to be broad enough to be representative of
the entire country and large enough to be statistically meaningful,"
The team worked with researchers at the University of Iowa College
of Dentistry to analyze the fluoride content of specific water, food,
and beverage samples collected from across the country. The resulting
analytical data was combined with other published and unpublished data
to make up the National Fluoride Database, which was launched last month
on the World Wide Web (see www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp).
It provides critical data for nutrition-related research, planning,
"To ensure quality control, we used standard reference materials,
which allowed us to gauge the accuracy of our research findings,"
The resulting database will be added to a computer-based food-and-beverage-intake
survey instrument now being developed by researchers at the University
of Minnesota Nutrition Coordinating Center (NCC). The survey instrument
will provide a valuable tool for assessing the amount of fluoride we
consume from dietary and nondietary sources, including fluoride supplements
For more than half a century, to prevent tooth decay, small amounts
of fluoride have been added to drinking water supplies in various U.S.
communities. That fluoride, as well as naturally occurring fluoride
in some well and municipal water supplies, then finds its way into water-based
beverages and foods.
"This is the first time there has been a systematic method of
collecting water, food, and beverage samples from around the country
to test and report validated fluoride values," says dental epidemiologist
Robert H. Selwitz, with the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial
Research, which provided funds for the project. Before, scant data existed
on the quantity of fluoride in the national food supply and, therefore,
on our overall dietary fluoride consumption.
NCC's fluoride intake assessment instrument will be used to study the
amount of fluoride folks consume from a variety of sources. Studies
using the new database will help researchers learn whether consumers
are meetingor surpassingthe established adequate daily intake
level of fluoride, which is 3 mg for women and 4 mg for men.
The project provides a solid foundation for future assessment studies
geared to finding out how various consumption levels of fluoride affect
dental caries (decay), bone health, and other diseases and conditions.By
Rosalie Marion Bliss,
Agricultural Research Service Information Staff.
This research is part of Human Nutrition, an ARS National Program
(#107) described on theWorld Wide Web at www.nps.ars.usda.gov.
"Finding the Fluoride in You" was published in the November 2004 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.