Aluminum and Alzheimer's
Current research is unclear on whether Alzheimer's disease is linked to long-term aluminum exposure. However, certain aluminum compounds have been found to be an important component of the neurological damage seen with Alzheimer's disease.
Aluminum is one of the most abundant elements found in the environment. Therefore, human exposure to this metal is common and unavoidable. However, intake of aluminum is relatively low because this element is highly insoluble in many of its naturally occurring forms. The significance of environmental contact with aluminum is further diminished by the fact that less than 1 percent of the aluminum taken into the body orally is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract.
The average human intake of aluminum is estimated to be between 30 and 50 mg (milligrams) per day. This intake comes primarily from:
- Foods: Some common food additives contain aluminum. Due to certain additives, processed cheese and cornbread are two major contributors to high aluminum exposures in the American diet.
- Drinking water: Based on the maximum levels reported in drinking water, less than 1/4 of a person's total aluminum intake comes from water.
- Pharmaceuticals: With regard to pharmaceuticals, some common over-the-counter medications such as antacids and buffered aspirin contain aluminum -- increasing the daily intake significantly.
Over the last few years, there has been concern about aluminum exposure resulting from leaching of aluminum from cookware and beverage cans. However, as a general rule, this contributes a relatively small amount to a person's total daily intake.
Aluminum beverage cans are usually coated with a polymer to minimize such leaching. Leaching from aluminum cookware becomes potentially significant only when cooking highly basic or acidic foods. For example, in one study, tomato sauce cooked in aluminum pans was found to accumulate 3-6 mg of aluminum per 100 g serving.