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Arguing Over Aluminum Toxicity

New research suggests that aluminum may be neurotoxic to the brain. In other words, this common chemical element may not be as safe as originally thought.

Q. As a retired industrial hygienist, I take issue with your response to a question about aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease. No link has been established between Al [aluminum] and dementia.

Al is the most abundant mineral in the earth’s crust. If it caused health problems everyone would have whatever the problem was. You should know this. Your answer reinforced the person’s misinformed fear.

A. You might be surprised at the research that has been published in recent years. One review outlined evidence “supporting the concept of aluminum’s involvement in hastening brain aging” (Toxicology, Jan., 2014). The author of this review points out:

“Epidemiological studies suggest that aluminum may not be as innocuous as was previously thought and that aluminum may actively promote the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Epidemiological data is strengthened by experimental evidence of aluminum exposure leading to excess inflammatory activity within the brain. Such apparently irrelevant immune activity unprovoked by an exogenous infectious agent characterizes the aging brain and is even more pronounced in several neurodegenerative diseases. The causation of most of these age-related neurological disorders is not understood but since they are generally not genetic, one must assume that their development is underlain by unknown environmental factors. There is an increasing and coherent body of evidence that implicates aluminum as being one such significant factor.”

Alzheimer’s Patients Have More Aluminum in Their Bodies

People with dementia have twice as much aluminum in their hair as healthy people, presumably reflecting a higher body burden (Spectrochimica Acta. Part A, Molecular and Biomolecular Spectroscopy, online, Sept. 16, 2014). Aluminum may also facilitate the development of beta amyloid plaques, the signature pathologic feature of Alzheimer’s disease (Frontiers in Neurology, online, Sept 5, 2014). The authors report on their findings:

“Taken together, these results strongly suggest that one of the most prominent features of AD [Alzheimer’s Disease] – the progressive accumulation and aggregation of Aβ42 peptides into senile plaques – is driven by aluminum via multiple interdependent pathogenic mechanisms. These findings continue to support an active role for aluminum in key neuropathogenic, inflammatory, and amyloidogenic pathways that contribute to the AD process. “

That’s research-speak for a significant role of aluminum in the formation of beta-amyloid plaque in the brain. In other words, not a good thing for the brain. There are literally hundreds of research articles in PubMed (The U.S. National Library of Medicine) regarding aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease. Many of them were published in the last few years.

J.R. Walton, PhD is on the Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales, St George Hospital, Sydney, Australia. His article in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (2014;40(4):765-838) concludes:

“Industrialized societies produce many convenience foods with aluminum additives that enhance various food properties and use alum (aluminum sulfate or aluminum potassium sulfate) in water treatment to enable delivery of large volumes of drinking water to millions of urban consumers. The present causality analysis evaluates the extent to which the routine, life-long intake, and metabolism of aluminum compounds can account for Alzheimer’s disease (AD), using Austin Bradford Hill’s nine epidemiological and experimental causality criteria, including strength of the relationship, consistency, specificity, temporality, dose-dependent response, biological rationale, coherence with existing knowledge, experimental evidence, and analogy…AD [Alzheimer’s Disease] is a human form of chronic aluminum neurotoxicity. The causality analysis demonstrates that chronic aluminum intake causes AD.”

Who to Believe?

That being said, there are scientists, like yourself, who do not believe that the evidence linking aluminum to Alzheimer’s disease or other neurodegenerative illnesses is strong enough to establish cause and effect. Given the degree of controversy, though, we like to err on the side of caution. That is one reason why we developed an Aluminum-Free Milk of Magnesia (MoM) Roll-On Deodorant. Magnesium is an essential element necessary for every cell in the body. Aluminum is not necessary for any cell in the body and in fact may be harmful. Until the FDA reconsiders its mandate requiring all antiperspirants to contain high concentrations of aluminum, we think it may be prudent to consider other ways to prevent body odor. Perhaps someday scientists will prove aluminum is totally safe. But until that day arrives, we remain cautious about exposure to this chemical element.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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