Alternative names: British/Australian/Canadian spelling is Aluminium.
The last several decades have seen a steady increase of aluminum in our environment and diet. Many junk and non-foods contain aluminum-based additives, for example raising agents in muffins and donuts. Many water utilities use aluminum sulfate to clarify drinking water. Other sources include antacids, buffered aspirin and antiperspirants. Many food colors use aluminum salts to make the color brighter. Americans are most at risk, Europeans next with Africans and Asians much less likely to have problems.
Aluminum is harmful to all life forms and damages all types of tissue. No living systems use aluminum as part of a biochemical process. Aluminum has a tendency to accumulate in the brain and, to a lesser extent, bones. It is considerably less toxic than mercury, arsenic, lead or cadmium, but it appears to be more persistent. The danger is one that only manifests itself over long periods of time, so it is prudent to avoid consumption.
Unfortunately in the USA there is quite a strong and vocal effort by interested parties who use extremely well-funded lobbying organizations to present aluminum compounds as harmless minerals. However, there are now several independent researchers who are doing their own tests to establish the toxic effects of the metal. Despite the doubts generated by powerful vested interests there is more than enough evidence to justify eliminating it from our diet.
It is unlikely that one can completely avoid aluminum in food. Aluminum is the most abundant metal in the Earth's crust. The major concern is how to prevent aluminum from entering the brain.
The following (non-US) food additives contain aluminum compounds: E173, E520, E521, E523 E541, E545, E554, E555 E556, E559. Antacids quite often contain aluminum trisilicate as does buffered aspirin. Foods containing aluminum-based additives include dry cake mixes, pastries and croissants made from frozen dough, processed cheeses, some donuts and waffles, muffins. The list of substances containing aluminum salts is quite depressing, even including many common toothpastes, especially tooth whitening products. A worrying development is the hidden aluminum in food coloring, even organic colorings such as cochineal can have been treated with color enhancers or mordants, usually aluminum.
The use of aluminum in drinking water is being raised as a concern in several countries. Most utilities in Europe and the United States do exceed the recommended level of 100mcg per liter, some by as much as sixty times.
Another obvious and easily avoided source is aluminum cooking pots and pans, this can be quite easily remedied by using enamelled, stainless steel and cast iron pots. Cooking in earthenware and glass containers is another option. There is no need to throw out all of your aluminum pots, it is OK to fry food in aluminum pans and intact Teflon coatings (now also shown to be toxic, however!) will effectively prevent any contamination. The worst foods to cook in aluminum are acidic ones such as tomatoes, as the acid readily dissolves aluminum.
One series of tests came up with the finding that the majority of children suffering from an attention deficit disorder had much higher than average levels of aluminum in their hair. Experiments have shown that many of those Alzheimer's Disease patients given treatment to remove aluminum from their system experience an immediate reduction in the rate of deterioration.
Feeding even relatively small amounts of some aluminum salts to laboratory animals results in brain tissue damage identical to that found in Alzheimer's sufferers (neurofibrillary tangles). Recent research using laboratory rats has identified aluminum fluoride as a particularly nasty substance, readily penetrating the blood-brain barrier. Significant damage was registered when they were given drinking water with only 0.5 parts per million concentration.
Research shows that aluminum is twice as effective as cadmium in producing the neurofibrillary tangles (sometimes referred to as microtubule damage) that are characteristic of Alzheimer's Disease. Minute quantities of aluminum fluoride, which is present in drinking water – as little as 0.5 parts per million – were found to result in the formation of beta amyloid proteins, another characteristic of Alzheimer's disease.
Pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid all sources of aluminum, as should those on slimming and weight loss diets. It is believed that when iron, and calcium, and to a lesser degree magnesium, silicon and zinc levels drop, the uptake of aluminum worsens. Taking mineral supplements seems to be a good idea, particularly for vegetarians, since absorption of aluminum is dramatically reduced by the presence of iron in the body. Since aluminum is cumulative toxin, slow-acting and extremely persistent, older people are at particularly at risk: the kidneys and blood-brain barrier lose their effectiveness as we age.
Until the water utilities get the level of aluminum down to safer levels it is prudent to use untreated spring or mineral water for drinking and cooking. You can help eliminate toxic metals – including aluminum – simply by drinking sulfur-containing spring water such as "San Pellagrino". Beans and garlic are also believed counter build-up through their detoxifying sulfur compounds.
According to Hugh Fudenberg, MD, the world's leading immunogeneticist and 13th most quoted biologist of our times (nearly 850 papers in peer review journals), if an individual has had five consecutive flu shots between 1970 and 1980 (the years studied), his or her chances of getting Alzheimer's Disease is ten times higher than if they had one, two or no shots. Dr. Fudenberg says it is due to the mercury and aluminum that is in every flu shot (and most childhood shots). The gradual mercury and aluminum buildup in the brain causes cognitive dysfunction.
Avoidance is currently the best way of protecting oneself from the serious damage that can result from long-term aluminum ingestion. The most effective way of preserving your mental acuity in to your later years appears to be eliminating the sources of aluminum in the diet. One can take steps to minimize the effects of aluminum in the environment through a sustained, three pronged attack:
Many of those who have gone on to low aluminum diets have reported a reduction in irritability, headaches and significant improvements in memory and ability to concentrate. Parents reported improvements in children suffering from behavioral problems.
Alzheimer's Disease has been linked to a number of risk factors, including exposure to aluminum. A study in France found that drinking water with high aluminum concentrations may indeed increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's and dementia. High sources of aluminum in the diet include: aluminum cooking utensils, aluminum-containing antacids, and tap water (which may have aluminum sulfate added to remove particulate and organic matter). [American Journal of Epidemiology 2000;152: pp.59-66.]
The researchers determined that a concentration of aluminum in drinking water above 0.1mg/liter may be a risk factor for dementia and Alzheimer's disease. 2,698 individuals were followed for an 8-year period to identify new cases of probable Alzheimer's or other dementing illness. The sample was divided into 75 drinking water areas, with surveys conducted to determine concentrations of aluminum, calcium, and fluorine in each water supply. The study authors point out that their findings support those of several other studies linking aluminum to Alzheimer's, but add that "this result needs to be confirmed using a higher number of exposed subjects."
One of our doctors comments: This is another reason to make sure that you limit your water intake to filtered or bottled. Aluminum is certainly an issue, but probably not as significant as chlorine exposure. Unless you have well water you will also need a filter for your shower as most of us will absorb for more toxins from bathing or showering than we ever will from drinking tap water.
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