In the late 1980s and early ’90s, there were widespread notions that aluminum was a cause of Alzheimer's or dementia. Animal studies at the time focused on one species of animals particularly susceptible to aluminum poisoning, which led to erroneous conclusions about the general affects of aluminum in the body. However, studies have not provided strong evidence that aluminum is a significant risk factor for the development of dementia.
Most people think of light, silvery metal pots and pans, airplanes, foil or tools to describe aluminum. But aluminum also has a nonmetallic form. About 8 percent of the Earth's surface is made up of this type of aluminum.
Trace elements of aluminum are actually found in many processed foods, cosmetics, personal hygiene products, some medications and even in the environment, such as dry soil, cigarette smoke, pesticide sprays, aluminum-based paint and the air we breathe. These trace elements of aluminum are normal and are not harmful.
Aluminum is present in our bodies, but its role and process in the body is not fully understood. Such a minute amount of aluminum is actually absorbed in our bodies and most of that is flushed out by the kidneys.
There has long been conflicting findings regarding the correlation between the development of dementia and aluminum. For instance, some studies have revealed increased levels of trace elements of aluminum in the brains of people with dementia, while others do not.
Additionally, research has not found an increased evidence of dementia in people with occupational exposure to aluminum. Incidentally, tea is one of the few plants in which the leaves accumulate larger trace element amounts of aluminum that can seep into the brewed beverage. Again, however, there is no evidence that dementia is more prevalent in cultures that typically consume large amounts of tea.
Some people shy away from the use of aluminum cookware, avoid drinking from beverage cans or avoid the use of aluminum foil. It would be difficult to significantly reduce exposure to aluminum by simply not using these products, and actually, the usage contributes only to a small percentage of the average person's intake of aluminum.
Exposure to trace elements of aluminum has no supportive or convincing evidence of its connection to the development of dementia.
Questions about Alzheimer's disease or a related disorder can be sent to Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, director of services at Alzheimer's Services of the Capital Area at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the organization at 3772 North Blvd., Baton Rouge.