The People's Perspective on Medicine

New Research Links Aluminum to Alzheimer’s Disease

Researchers have been arguing about the relationship between aluminum exposure and Alzheimer's disease for decades. We bring you up-to-date on new research.

That was the title of an article Joe wrote over 26 years ago for a newspaper column.



Here is the original article:

I’m getting nervous. For years I have reassured readers of this column that there’s no evidence aluminum causes Alzheimer’s disease. But new research has raised disturbing questions about the link between aluminum in drinking water and development of this tragic brain disease.

British investigators recently reported in the journal Lancet (Jan. 14, 1989) that people who were exposed to high levels of aluminum in municipal water systems were at least 50 percent more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those drinking water with low levels of aluminum.

In their introduction the authors note that “Aluminum has been detected in both senile plaques and neurofibrillary tangle bearing neurons in brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. These finding suggest that exposure to aluminum may be important in causation of the disease.”

Their data revealed:

“This survey, conducted in eighty-eight districts within England and Wales, shows that rates of Alzheimer’s disease in people under the age of 70 years are related to the average aluminum concentrations present in drinking water supplies over the previous decade.”

Although the authors urged caution in interpreting these findings and called for additional research, they concluded that “The results of the present survey provide evidence of a causal relation between aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease.”

This is not the first time aluminum as been associated with brain disease. Norwegian scientists have also raised a warning flag that the aluminum levels in water might be associated with this form of senile dementia.

Aluminum On the Island of Guam

Researchers have been keeping a suspicious eye on the island of Guam for years. The Chamorro natives there have an unusually high incidence of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and parkinsonism-dementia that is somewhat similar to presenile Alzheimer’s disease.

There are unusually high levels of aluminum in garden soil and drinking water in parts of Guam. And at autopsy these patients have unusual deposits of aluminum within their brains.

Aluminum in the Brain

Alzheimer’s patients also seem to accumulate  aluminum within the abnormal tangles of their brains. Neuroscientists have assumed that this was more a result of the disease rather than a cause and unrelated to environmental contamination.

But doctors have known for sometime that kidney dialysis patients were susceptible to brain damage from aluminum unless the water used in the process is treated to remove this mineral. And animals that are injected with aluminum develop tangled brain cells suggestive of those found in Alzheimer’s victims.

We do not yet have a smoking gun that implicates aluminum as a major cause of Alzheimer’s disease or other brain conditions, but the evidence is beginning to add up. Until scientists can rule out any and all danger from aluminum, I am going to try to minimize my exposure, just to be on the safe side.

Aluminum Is Widespread in our Environment

That may be harder than you would think. This metal is widespread in our environment. Many soils and water supplies contain high levels of this common metal. Water treatment plants even add aluminum sulfate to make water clear. Levels in many municipal water supplies in the U.S. are similar to those the British scientists found alarming.

Aluminum is also found in a wide variety of foods and nonprescription drugs. Many antacids contain aluminum hydroxide as do buffered aspirin products. All antiperspirants also contain aluminum as a major ingredient.

Baking powder, cake mixes, and pancake mixes, frozen dough, processed cheese and cheese foods also contribute to the total aluminum intake.

No one knows how much, if any, extra aluminum ends up in beverages stored in aluminum cans. And acidic foods cooked in aluminum pots and pans may also add to daily exposure.

Fortunately, most of this aluminum is not absorbed into the body. But since there are alternatives for many of these products, I’m erring on the side of caution until scientists can give aluminum a clean bill of health.

That was the article Joe wrote for release on February 6, 1989.

Fast Forward to 2015

What has happened over the last 26 years? In a nutshell, aluminum has NOT been exonerated. If anything, the case against aluminum has grown stronger over time. On February 4, 2015 an article appeared online in the journal Current Alzheimer Research. The authors state the following about contributors to Alzheimer’s disease:

“Environmental factors possibly include inorganic and organic hazards, exposure to toxic metals (aluminium, copper), pesticides (organochlorine and organophosphate insecticides), industrial chemicals (flame retardants) and air pollutants (particulate matter). Long term exposures to these environmental contaminants together with bioaccumulation over an individual’s life-time are speculated to induce neuroinflammation and neuropathology paving the way of developing AD…”

What About Aluminum and Alzheimer’s?

Professor Exley, a British bio-inorganic chemist at Keele University has described aluminum as a neurotoxin. In the journal Frontiers in Neurology (online, Oct. 27, 2014) he wrote a review titled: “Why Industry Propaganda and Political Interference Cannot Disguise the Inevitable Role Played by Human Exposure to Aluminum in Neurodegenerative Diseases, Including Alzheimer’s Disease”

Professor Exley states:

“The presence of aluminum in the brain must mean that it is inevitable that it will contribute toward any on-going degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or multiple sclerosis, ultimately, resulting in earlier onset and/or more aggressive forms of the disease.”

“In the brain, aluminum will contribute toward neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.”

An article in Toxicology, Jan. 2014 offered these points:

“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…

“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. Evidence is outlined supporting the concept of aluminum’s involvement in hastening brain aging. This acceleration would then inevitably lead to increased incidence of specific age-related neurological diseases.”

The Bottom Line

So, what are we to make of all this aluminum research? There are many neuroscientists who do not believe aluminum has anything to do with Alzheimer’s disease. They may even be right. But I am sticking with my original conclusion from 26 years ago:

“Until scientists can rule out any and all danger from aluminum, I am going to try to minimize my exposure, just to be on the safe side.”

Please share your thoughts on this controversial topic below and vote at the top of this article. Thanks.

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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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I just did some research and found that about 10% of people age 65+ is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. That’s a lot higher than I’d realized. But I would think that if aluminum really is directly involved with development of the disease, that percentage would be much higher given aluminum’s abundance in the environment. And almost everyone in the USA uses aluminum foil, deodorants and antacids. So 9 in 10 people won’t be diagnosed with AD. There must be other factors with greater involvement.

This is such a timely and important conversation. Thank you!

Please watch: “The Age of Aluminium”.

Big Pharma, our supposed health watch dogs – Health Canada and the FDA, governments, university research departments, and especially the growing number of big Societies (e.g. Alzheimer’s society, Parkinson’s society, etc.), want their monies going to perpetuate themselves.

If some “cure” can be found outside their realm of control, they will do everything possible to discredit it. Meanwhile people are literally dying from this corporate attitude. Money may make the world go round, but it also prevents timely progress.

Thank you.

Greg Shea (Lake Cowichan, BC, Canada)

P.S. At a recent workshop here in Victoria, the spokesperson for the Alzheimer Society of BC actually said that aluminum is no longer considered a possible “cause” of Alzheimer’s, so “get out your discarded aluminum pots and pans”. They will not harm you!

I think this is totally irresponsible. Where is “the precautionary principle”?

I would like to see more actual, quantitative comparisons of aluminum content in different situations. Anecdotes and summaries aren’t particularly convincing.

Prof Exley is crowdfunding a clinical trial testing the link between Alzheimer’s disease and aluminium. Please have a look at his campaign page:

You can also post any questions you might have about the research on the campaign page. A definitive study of Alzheimer’s and Aluminum is at hand but needs everyone’s help to succeed! Have a look and share!

In the book Anticancer: A New Way of Life (Viking, 2009) by David Servan-Schreiber, the word “aluminum” does not appear in the index, and as far as I can recall there is no discussion of aluminum in the text. But in the book’s glossy insert about diet matters, there are warnings on p6, 7, and 15 against aluminum-containing deodorants “especially for women who shave their armpits, which facilitates penetration of aluminum”. On p2 of the same glossy section there is also a flat injunction to “Avoid skin contact with aluminum”.

Servan-Schreiber’s concern is with avoiding cancer, not Alzheimer’s, but the practical advice is the same. In contact with the human body, aluminum is bad stuff.

My mother, who died of Alzheimer’s disease, was very sensitive to aluminum, as am I. I can always tell if I have eaten something cooked in this metal, because I develop fever blisters. I avoid aluminum pots and pans, but your article about the prevalence of aluminum in our food and water disturbs me.

I’m scared to death of getting AD, and all these unsubstantiated possible contributors
to AD have not been proven as yet. At worst it’s just causing people to worry and that
alone will make one sick.

I had a TIA many years ago and just recently I’ve been having difficulty retrieving words, but my memory is excellent otherwise. Unless I hear some concrete evidence that aluminum is the culprit, I am not going to worry.

Well aluminum is the culprit in many diseases it is nothing deodorant or any small amounts that we use as individuals is causing.. It is dropped on us through cloud seeding it has been found in snow ice and water. It is not anything that we can stop and we have been subjected to this treatment since the 1950s. Those beautiful clouds we would gaze upon reclining on our backs and looking up to the sky at dusk , the beautiful white puffy streaks of cotton. We used to call them mares tails we no longer call them that because they are Chemtrails.

Would love your thoughts on DSL lines being installed in your backyard(literally)by ATT without my permission; I’m concerned about the radiation they will emit since I am almost literally on top of them.
Also your opinion on the radiation we receive from our security systems from the control box inside our homes which are now using cellular energy rather than our landline telephone lines for communication.
Thank you very much!
I have been a fan for years, have several of your books, and came to your book signing at Quail Ridge Books several years ago for the chocolate cookbook I bought. Yum!
Also, can you offer a way we can protect ourselves from radiation when we work at a computer all day?
Thanks again.

So…my goose is cooked. I don’t know the aluminum content of Miami-Dade County’s water, but that, and any genetics aside, I still think I’m a prime candidate for Alzheimer’s due to my long term exposure to pesticides and air pollutants.
Prior to owning my own landscape/design business for 20 years, I worked for the airline industry, outside on the ramp and under the building loading containers. I was exposed, on a daily basis, to all the jet fuel fumes and exhausts and the carbon monoxide that collected under the building in the baggage loading area.
I was immersed in plants for a total of 45 or my 65 years. I started my own landscaping company and am allergic to all organophosphates ,due to a skin exposure of the concentrated form of Cygon. I also have been exposed to many fungicides…ALL that use copper as their main active ingredient. Being a smoker(no longer) for 45 years hasn’t helped either, I’m sure.
I am already at a loss for words-the simplest words-in conversations. I have trouble remembering botanical names for plants I have known my whole life.
I watch my mother, who is 93 and battling dementia, and am frozen with fear because I so don’t want to put my spouse or children through what she is doing to me. And it will be coming so much sooner.

How do infants avoid vaccinations which contain aluminum? Also flu vaccines also would contain aluminum in addition to mercury.

If we cover baking pans with aluminum foil to keep foods from dehydrating while being baked, are we incurring unnecessary risk?

If we cover foods with plastic wrap before microwaving to cook them, do we incur unnecessary risk?

While they continue to argue about aluminum, I decided several years ago to stop using anti-antiperspirants since the FDA requires them to contain it in order to be called by that name.

Deodorants may contain other ingredients I might wish to avoid.

I now use milk of magnesia as a deodorant thanks to this newsgroup.

Your policy is surely the right one, Joe, even if hard to follow given aluminum’s presence in so many food/beverage containers. One more reason not to drink soft drinks!

When I was growing up (early ’40s), my parents had a full set of aluminum pots, which in those days were considered both modern and upscale. They were used on a daily basis throughout my childhood and youth, and I can clearly recall the tiny pits covering the sides of the dutch oven that resulted from frequently using it to make tomato sauce.

My parents died old (late 80s, mid 90s) without evidence of AD, and I’m OK so far, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed, and following your policy!

My grandparents as well! I still have a few of their old pots from probably the 30s and 40s. But now I’m afraid to use them. But one died at 77 of cancer and the other at 85 of heart disease. Neither had any form of dementia.

I agree with you Joe. I am attempting to limit my exposure.

Because I am cautious about aluminum, for years I have cooked in stainless steel (mostly) and cast iron. Recently I read that heavy metals, including iron, may be contributing to Alzheimer’s & that at least one study showed that people with higher hemoglobin levels were more likely to get Alzheimer’s. I always thought my high-normal hemoglobin was a good thing! Is there anything to this?

Is there a link to the increased use of Aluminum based deodorants and Dementia as it can be absorbed through the skin?

The mention of Guam in the article triggered memories. In 1946 we joined my father on Saipan. I remember dumps of equipment left as the soldiers returned to the States. Mess kits and cooking utensils were all of aluminum, all left on the islands and given to the natives. I wonder if there is a connection. And, I wonder if the soldiers, cooking, eating and drinking out of aluminum affected them?

I have been using aluminum free deodorant and fluoride free toothpaste and drinking spring water for the last 10 -15 years. I do everything possible to avoid these contaminants, but sometimes its not possible. Every time I try to talk to someone about the epidemic of illness in this country they look at me like I am a nut case so I don’t try anymore. Here’s hoping for good health and happiness.

Aluminum should not pass the blood brain barrier unless it has a carrier. It may be more important to determine possible carriers that may be present in foods or in the body since total exclusion of aluminum seems impossible.

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