For years, experts have argued over how much of a danger aluminum presents to the brain. But one thing that’s not disputed: The brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease contain elevated amounts of aluminum.1
The question becomes, is that increase in aluminum a cause or effect of developing Alzheimer’s disease?
The latest research performed in England puts a finer point on the link between aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers found that aluminum plays a role in the cellular changes marking the beginning of Alzheimer’s.
When the British group analyzed the brains of Alzheimer’s sufferers, they discovered that the phosphorylated tau proteins that accumulate in a diseased brain contain aluminum.
Researcher Christopher Exley, who is with Keele University, Staffordshire, United Kingdom, says the lab examination of the diseased brains in the studies “shows that aluminum and amyloid-beta are intimately woven in the neuropathology.”
And Dr. Exley adds, that “Within the normal lifespan of humans, there would not be any Alzheimer’s disease if there were no aluminum in the brain tissue. No aluminum, no Alzheimer’s disease.”
While Dr. Exley’s study results are definitive, they’re certainly not the first to point to the dangers of aluminum in brain tissue.
Increased Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease
In population studies, some research shows that being exposed to more aluminum increases your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
For instance, a review in 2017 of studies that involved more than 10,000 people showed that “chronic exposure” to aluminum increases the Alzheimer’s risk by a whopping 71 percent.2
But other studies, like a study of about 1,000 people whose jobs exposed them to significant amounts of aluminum, did not find a link between aluminum and brain problems.3 However, researchers in that second study cautioned that their research could not “exclude” a role for aluminum in Alzheimer’s disease.
So, even though not all of the research has concluded that aluminum is central to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, I think it’s pretty clear that if we value the health of our brains, we should do everything we can to limit our aluminum exposure.
Plus, right now in Berlin, Germany, the Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung (the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment), which is a government agency that provides a wide range of health advice, is warning Germans to keep their aluminum exposure down to preserve their memory health.4
Limiting aluminum exposure in today’s modern society takes a conscious effort.
5 Important Ways to Limit Your Aluminum Exposure
Aluminum is very common in the environment. It’s the third most common element found on earth. In fact, you’re exposed to aluminum every day, usually in very tiny amounts. For example, aluminum is used in canned beverages and as additives in food, and sometimes there are microscopic amounts of aluminum in the air we breathe. In other words, it’s impossible to totally avoid this toxic metal.5
However, there are five easy ways you can reduce your exposure to aluminum.
- Don’t use deodorants or anti-perspirants that contain aluminum: Anti-perspirants in particular often contain aluminum salts that can be absorbed by the body.
- Read labels on toothpaste and don’t use those that contain aluminum: Aluminum oxide is often used as an abrasive in toothpaste to increase its scrubbing effectiveness.
- Read food labels and avoid foods with additives of aluminum compounds: For example, sodium aluminum phosphate may be included in baked goods.6
- Don’t cook with aluminum: Don’t use aluminum pots and pans. And don’t use aluminum foil as a wrap for stored foods.
- Select antacids or other OTC medications carefully: Many of these products contain aluminum compounds.
Of course, I’d add that you shouldn’t drink soft drinks or any other type of beverage that comes in an aluminum can. (Of course, if you’re diligent about your health, you shouldn’t be imbibing soft drinks anyway!) Research shows that drinks in cans absorb aluminum from the can. And the longer the drink has been stored in the can, the more aluminum migrates into the drink.7