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Poligrip to go zinc-free

In light of a number of lawsuits in which denture users claim they've been harmed by the zinc in their denture adhesive, GlaxoSmithKline has pledged to remove the mineral from its Poligrip products -- even as the company maintains that its product is safe when used as directed.

Zinc is used to help strengthen the bond between dentures and gums. But many people have claimed that they've suffered neurological damage leading to numbness, partial paralysis and, in one case, death, as a result of using denture adhesives. Here's part of GSK's statement that explains why the company is removing the ingredient:

We are taking these actions because we have become aware of potential health problems associated with the long-term excessive use of our zinc-containing denture adhesive products. However, it is important for consumers to know that these products remain safe to use as directed on the product label.

Procter & Gamble, maker of Poligrip's major rival, Fixodent, says no changes are planned for its product, which it says contains much less zinc than its competitor's product does. Here's a statement from Tricia Gottlieb, a spokesperson for P&G:

We do not have plans to change Fixodent. It's important to recognize that Fixodent's formula is different vs Super Poligrip. In fact, Fixodent's formula contains about half the amount of zinc used in Super Poligrip.
For perspective, the amount of zinc a consumer would ingest from normal, as-directed, daily usage of Fixodent is less than the amount of zinc in most daily multi-vitamins, and comparable to the zinc in six ounces of ground beef. Current Fixodent formulations have been safely marketed for 20 years.

Dietary zinc is good for people -- to a point. The mineral bolsters the immune system (though its role in preventing colds remains uncertain) and promotes wound healing, among other benefits. Prime food sources include meat, poultry, beans, nuts and especially oysters.

But too much zinc has long been known to cause neurological problems. And researchers reporting in the journal Annals of Neurology in 2008 found a link between the zinc in denture creams and serious neurologic disease in cases of "chronic excessive use" of those creams.

According to the American Dental Association, well-fitted dentures should need just a tad, if any, adhesive to keep them in place. If you find you need more to keep dentures from slipping, you should see your dentist to have them adjusted or replaced.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  February 22, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Environmental Toxins , General Health , Seniors  
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