Cooking with Aluminum Foil Causes Alzheimer’s Disease-Unproven!
Summary of eRumor:
Cooking with aluminum pots and pans or aluminum foil causes Alzheimer’s disease.
Theories that exposure to aluminum has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease have been circulating since the 1960s — but there’s never been any definitive proof that aluminum causes Alzheimer’s disease.
And even if there was a clear link between aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease, not using aluminum pots and pans or aluminum foil would do little to reduce your overall aluminum intake (more on that later).
These old rumors about aluminum and Alzheimer’s resurfaced in 2014 when the natural health website Mercola.com published a report under the headline, “First Case Study to Show Direct Link Between Alzheimer’s and Aluminum Toxicity,” that has been read more than a million times.
The Mercola.com article links to a U.K. case study about a man who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease after being exposed to high levels of aluminum dust (pronounced aluminium in the U.K) on the job over an eight-year period. Shortly after beginning work, the man complained of headaches, tiredness and mouth ulcers. Later, he had memory loss issues. After his death, the family requested that his brain tissue samples be studied by researchers at Oxford University. High aluminum levels were found in the frontal lobe of his brain, and researchers ruled that it was “highly likely” that aluminum had contributed to the rare and aggressive form of Alzheimer’s:
The clinical diagnosis of early onset sporadic Alzheimer’s disease showing features postmortem of advanced disease at age 66 is suggestive of aggressive disease aetiology and the probable involvement of aluminium in the onset and progression of the condition. High brain tissue aluminium was similarly implicated in a recent case of congophilic amyloid angiopathy where disease onset was again very early and disease pathology postmortem was highly advanced in an individual in their late 50s. While it is impossible to know if high levels of brain aluminium instigated disease in either of these cases it is highly likely, considering the known neurotoxicity of aluminium, that aluminium was a contributor to disease aetiology, perhaps resulting in an earlier onset and more rapid progression of a nascent condition.
The case study has since been used to argue that cooking with aluminum foil causes Alzheimer’s, or that exposure to aluminum through pots and pans or other consumer products causes Alzheimer’s. Those claims are problematic because casual exposure to aluminum is not the same as breathing aluminum dust every day for eight years. Also, researchers didn’t definitively conclude that aluminum exposure was responsible for the man’s disease — but that it was “possible” and or “highly likely.”
When specifically asked about the link between aluminum cookware and Alzheimer’s disease, Dr. Anil Nair, an assistant professor of neurology at Boston University Alzheimer’s Disease Center, said that it was a “very old theory.”
Beside lack of a clear link between Alzheimer’s and aluminum, Dr. Nair noted that aluminum is found in deodorants, antacids, food additives, drinking water and many other products. Cutting out aluminum foil or aluminum pots and pans would do little to reduce your overall aluminum intake, he said. And although aluminum can cause neurotoxicity in large amounts (one gram of aluminum every day for many years), it’s “never really been soundly proven” to contribute directly to Alzheimer’s disease:
The most common way to consume that much is through consuming aluminum hydroxide antacid. One tablet of aluminum hydroxide antacid contains somewhere between 1,000 milligrams (one gram) of aluminum and 1.5 grams of aluminum – a large dose. If you are cooking with aluminum pans, typically you don’t get much. You need a very highly acidic or a very highly basic solution – like Indian food – to actually leach out aluminum from cooking.
In the 1970s, people thought that aluminum is a cause of Alzheimer’s disease. Some brain plaques have been found that contain that metal. One reason why the brain plaques may have that aluminum is that Abeta (amyloid beta protein) – the bad protein in Alzheimer’s disease – is a very highly chelating agent, and it tends to attract all kinds of heavy metals. (A chelating agent is an organic compound that is capable of bonding with metals such as aluminum.)
A lot of epidemiological studies related to aluminum have been inconclusive and somewhat contradictory.
Other epidemiological studies have measured how much aluminum is added to water to purify it to see if that had something to do with dementia. Many of these studies have been from Europe and showed some powerful evidence between aluminum in water and increased dementia. But when they tried to replicate those studies, they couldn’t find any cause. We don’t really know if the water for that particular area had more likelihood of having Alzheimer’s dementia. So it is at best unclear, but there is no real direct cause.
Nair said he doesn’t tell his patients to cut back on aluminum intake because he doesn’t believe the hypothesis that aluminum causes Alzheimer’s because of “lack of evidence.”
And the Alzheimer’s Association contends that “there is no convincing evidence that aluminum increases a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease,” but adding that, “some researchers are still examining whether some people are at risk because their bodies have difficulties in handling foods containing the metals copper, iron and aluminum.”
The Alzheimer’s Association also noted that some studies show increased levels of aluminum in brains of people with Alzheimer’s, while others do not. And early studies focused on one animal that is susceptible to aluminum poising, leading to incorrect conclusions about the the general impact of aluminum on the body and brain.
Specifically when it comes to cooking with aluminum pots and pans or aluminum foil, the Alzheimer’s Association agreed with Dr. Nair’s conclusion that even if aluminum was linked to Alzheimer’s, not cooking with aluminum would do little to cut down on your overall aluminum intake:
It would be difficult to significantly reduce exposure to aluminum simply by avoiding the use of aluminum cookware, foil, beverage cans and other products. Even if aluminum were clearly implicated in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, these means of exposure contributes only a very small percentage of the average person’s intake of aluminum.
In the end, it’s true that very high levels of aluminum can cause neurotoxicity. But aluminum has not bee definitively linked to Alzheimer’s disease, and specific claims that cooking with aluminum causes Alzheimer’s are unfounded. In reality, cutting out aluminum foil and aluminum pots and pans would do little to reduce your overall aluminum intake.