In the 1960s, aluminum emerged as a possible cause of Alzheimer’s disease after a number of autopsies revealed traces of aluminum in the brains of individuals who had Alzheimer’s. Since then, some circumstantial evidence has supported the existence of a link between Alzheimer’s and aluminum. However, as of yet, there is no conclusive evidence to prove the connection.
What are the Main Sources of Aluminum?
Aluminum is found everywhere in our environment. Some of the key sources by which we come in contact with aluminum include:
- Aluminum beverage cans
- Aluminum cookware
- Antiperspirant (antiperspirant contains aluminum; deodorant generally does not)
- Baked products
- Drinking water
- Processed foods
- Some types of antacids
- Some cosmetics
How is Aluminum Processed in the Body?
According to the Alzheimer’s Society of London, the kidneys process 99 percent of the aluminum that enters the body. This aluminum leaves the body unabsorbed. If, however, an individual’s kidneys are not functioning properly, aluminum absorption can be much higher. In such cases, some researchers claim that aluminum storage in the body can eventually cause dementia.
Evidence for a Link Between Alzheimer’s and Aluminum?
Since the 1960s, a great amount of effort has gone into researching the possibility of a link between Alzheimer’s and aluminum. Some studies have shown a higher level of aluminum in the brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. Other studies, however, have found no such aluminum level abnormalities.
Some research is still being carried out on the topic of Alzheimer’s and aluminum. The goal of much of this research is to determine whether people who are unable to properly process aluminum and other metals that enter their bodies are at risk for developing Alzheimer’s as a result.
Conclusion: No Clear Connection Between Alzheimer’s and Aluminum
Most experts don’t believe there is enough evidence to support the idea that aluminum in the body causes Alzheimer’s disease. For example, there is no evidence to suggest that individuals who experience a greater than average exposure to aluminum in the workplace are at a greater risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Aluminum may play a role in Alzheimer’s disease, but if so, this role is likely insignificant.
Any link between Alzheimer’s and aluminum seems to diminish with the discovery of other, much more significant risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, such as age, genetics and lifestyle factors.
This view is shared by a number of Alzheimer’s organizations including:
- Alzheimer’s Association (Michigan)
- Alzheimer Society of Canada
- Alzheimer’s Society of London
- American Health Assistance Foundation
- Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation.
Alzheimer’s Association. (2005). Association responds to USA TODAY letter to the editor. Retrieved April 27, 2010, from http://www.alz.org/news_and_events_alzheimer_news_02-02-2005.asp.
Alzheimer Society of Canada. (n.d.) Causes of Alzheimer’s disease: Aluminum. Retrieved April 27, 2010, from http://www.alzheimer.ca/english/disease/causes-alumi.htm.
Alzheimer’s Society (of London). (n.d.) Aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease. Retrieved April 27, 2010, from http://alzheimers.org.uk/site/scripts/documents_info.php?categoryID=200137