Does this toxic metal, now linked to Alzheimer’s, belong in anyone’s diet?

Posted by
April 15, 2014


opening a canAsk people what they’re most afraid of when it comes to their health, and they’ll probably tell you it’s the possibility of developing Alzheimer’s.

Yet, many of us regularly consume things containing an ingredient that’s now been positively linked to that dreaded, mind-robbing disease.

In fact, you might very well be doing so yourself and not be aware of it. Because the ingredient in question can be found in a whole bevy of processed foods, ranging from frozen fish to frozen pizza to commercial cake mixes, not to mention certain over-the-counter drugs.

It’s aluminum.

For many years, this toxic metal has been regarded by many health experts as a possible perpetrator in the fast growing number of Alzheimer’s cases after turning up in the brains of some who have succumbed to the disease.  But we were always told there was never enough “proof” of its involvement – especially given that the victims were mostly older people and no direct ‘cause-and-effect’ association was ever clearly established.

But now there’s much stronger evidence – strong enough to move aluminum from something regarded with suspicion into the category of an official “suspect”.

The breakthrough came when researchers from England’s Keele University examined the brain of an industrial worker who had died of early onset Alzheimer’s following eight years of regular occupational exposure to aluminum sulfate dust. Prior to his diagnosis, the man, whose medical history showed no indication of the disease, complained of tiredness, headaches and mouth ulcers, then began to develop memory problems and depression.

Following his death several years later, a neuropathological examination confirmed that he had advance stage Alzheimer’s disease.  “There then followed the most comprehensive investigation ever of the aluminium (the British spelling) content of the frontal lobe of a single individual with 49 different tissue samples being measured for aluminium,” according to a UK health website.

The examination found the amount of aluminum in the victim’s brain to be at least four times higher than might be expected for someone his age. “Overall, these results suggest very strongly that occupational exposure … contributed significantly to the untimely death of this individual with Alzheimer’s disease,” noted Keele Professor Chris Exley.

In other words, a direct link between Alzheimer’s and aluminum exposure was finally made.

A little aluminum with that?

Of course, the chances are you’re not regularly breathing in aluminum dust in your workplace. So should this concern you?

The answer is yes — because aluminum, as many product ingredients labels will tell you, is something you’re apt to be consuming on a regular basis. The number of everyday foods to which it’s routinely added include such items as:

  • Betty Crocker, Pillsbury and Duncan Hines cake mixes, all of which contain sodium aluminum phosphate;
  • Gorton’s Fish Tenders and Fish Sticks, which also lists sodium aluminum phosphate as an ingredient in its baking powder;
  • DiGiorno Rising Crust Pizza, which does likewise.
  • Clabber Girl Baking Powder, which can add sodium aluminum phosphate to your homemade cakes and pies (as opposed to such brans as Argo and Rumsford, whose labels note that they’re “aluminum free.”

And you may be getting it from other food-related sources as well: aluminum foil, if you use it to wrap meats, fish and other items during cooking, and aluminum cookware (which should be replaced with newer ceramic varieties).

In addition, if you suffer from indigestion, a number of the antacids now on the market contain aluminum compounds as either active or inactive ingredients — which is why you should check those labels, too.

Of course, the amounts of aluminum you’re absorbing into your bloodstream from food and other sources aren’t apt to be anything like the airborne levels to which the unfortunate British worker was exposed.

But knowing that this toxic metal can accumulate in brain tissue, and is now considered a likely culprit instead of just a ‘substance of interest’ in the development of Alzheimer’s, do you really want to be ingesting it – especially when you don’t have to?