Alzheimer’s & Aluminum Toxicity
Alzheimer’s disease, or senile dementia of the Alzheimer’s type, will be one of America’s greatest health
problems in the coming years. Sixty percent of patients now admitted to nursing homes have this
diagnosis, and the number of Alzheimer’s victims is projected to incresse as much as eight-fold by the
middle of the next century.
There is a strong connection between aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease. Research clearly demonstrates
abnormally high accumulations of aluminum within the brains of Alzheimer’s victims. Independent
studies performed in Norway, the United Kingdom, France and Canads, show a direct correlation
between the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and aluminum concentrations in the drinking water.l,2,3,4
In filet, one British study reported in the highly respected medical jonroal; The Lancet, showed the risk of
developing Alzheimer’s disease to be 50 percent greater where drinking water contained high levels of
The connection between aluminum in the brain and Alzheimer’s Disease is so convincing that various
studies are under way to explore whether aluminum in the brain can be removed, and if so, to ~e if
this would be beneficial for Alzheimer’s patients. One fascinating study also reported in The Lancet,
showed that by administering desferrioxarnine, a chemical known to remove aluminum and other metals
from the body, the progression of dementia associated with Alzheimer’s disease was significantly slowed.
In a recent article appearing in the Townsend Letter for Doctors (November 1993), Dr. Michael A
Weiner, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Research Institute summarized our present understanding of
the dangers of aluminum exposure when he stated ” … aluminum has been known as a neurotoxic
substance for nearly a century. The scientific literature on its toxic effects has now grown to a critical
mass. It is not necessary to conclude that aluminum causes Alzheimer’s disease to recommend that it be
rednced or eliminated as a potential risk. It is the only element noted to accumulate in the tangle-bearing
neurons characteristic of the disease and is also found in elevated amounts in four regions of the brain of
Our exposure to aluminum is certainly nothing new. It is one of the most common elements in the earth’s
crust and has long made its way into our foods. Ancient man consumed aluminum when rocks were used
to mill grain into flour. Minimal exposure to aluminum isn’t a problem; our bodies can excrete small
amounts very e:fficiently. Laboratory research has shown that we can handle about twenty milligrams of
aluminum ingestion each day. Unfortunately, most of us are exposed to and ingest far more aluminum
than onr bodies can handle.
What are the sources of aluminum that contribute to toxicity? Aluminum is an ingredient in a wide-range
of items that many of us use every day. Some of these products include processed foods, medications and
even personal hygiene products.
Aluminum is added as an emulsifying agent in many processed cheeses, especially those which are
single-sliced. It is found in cake mises, self-rising floor, prepared dongh, nondairy creamers, pickles and
in some brands ofbaking powder. Aluminum Iaury! sulfate is a common ingredient in many shampoos,
while several anti dandruff shampoos, including Selsun-Blue, contain magnesium aluminum silicate.
Aluminum is an active ingredient in most antiperspirants (aluminum chlorhydrate). However, since
people have started becoming more aware of the dangers of aluminum, some “aluminum free”
antiperspirants are now being advertised.
Aluminum is readily absorbed by foods cooked in aluminum cookware. In a study conducted at the
University of Cincinnati Medical Center, tomatoes cooked in an aluminum pot had a two to four
milligram increase in aluminum content per serving.8 Perhaps the most significant source of aluminum
exposure comes from medications. Most antacid preparations, for example, may contain 200 milligrams
or more of elemental aluminum in a single tablet! That’s ten times more than the presumably acceptable
20 milligrams per day.
Aluminum is the most abundant metallic element in the earth’s crust It is abundant in the soil, water and
air particles. Acidic rain increases the amount that is leached into our water supplies.
Aluminum is an abundant element in dirt. It is found natnrally in nearly all foods and herbs. Herb
companies, knowing how much aluminum a pure herb should contain, can use a laboratory measure of
aluminum content to indicate how clean the plant (especially root material) is; extra dirt wonld add to the
Aluminum is not a “heavy metal.” It is used in industry where economy, strength and light weight are
needed i.e. aircraft parts and beer cans, etc.
Minute amounts of aluminum are needed in the brain to activate vital enzyme systems. It may even play a
role in protein synthesis.
There is a distinct difference between organic and inorganic forms of aluminum.
Sources of Aluminum and aluminum compounds
Aluminum is primarily absorbed into the body throngh the digestive tract Dietsry intske ranges widely
from 5 to 150 mg/day. These levels do not seem to interfere with the absorption or utilization of calcium,
phosphorous, zinc, copper, selenium, iron or magnesium Adequate calcium intake may decrease the risk
of alnrninum toxicity.
It is also absorbed throngh the brngs and skin.
Treated municipal water- Many municipal water supplies are treated with alum (alnrninum sulfate) to get
rid of murkiness. At least seven separate studies have shown that people drinking water high in alum are
more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than people drinking water low in alum The worst part is that alum
can combine with fluoride in the blood to form aluminum fluoride. About 300,000,000 ponnds of sodium
fluoride, an industrial waste from aluminum refiners, is added to our water supply each year. (see
Aluminum researcher Elizabeth Jeffery has found evidence that fluoride interferes with the body’s ability
to get rid of aluminum. She says, “My research indicates that fluoride readily combines with aluminum in
the blood, and that aluminum fluoride, once fonned is very poorly excreted in the urine.” She believes
that the aluminum fluoride then becomes concentrated in the bones (where fluorine replaces calcium) and
continues to slowly release and recycle through the body over time. Albert Burgstahler, a professor of
biochemistry at the University of Kansas, has found that aluminum fluoride cao pass unusually well
throogh biological barriers, notably the blood-borio barrier, aod accunrulate in the brain. (See “Toxicity in
brain tissues” below)
The EPA Secondary Maxinmm Contaminant level for alornioum in water is 50 ppb. City water filtered
through a ”Multi-pure” system is usually less than 10 ppb. Coca-Cola Classic in an aluminum can has
beeo measured at 6,160 ppb. (Doo~ be too shocked: the amounts of aluminum in baked goods, antacids
aod antiperspiraots leave yoor cola in the dust.)
Carbonated beveragea are acidic. When doctors at Joho Hunter Hospital checked containers of 52
different beverages, they found soft drinks in cans contained up to 4 112 times the recommended amount
of alornioum that drinking water can contain. Medical Journal of Australia 156(9): 604-5, 1992
Aluminum alloy cookware and containers – Cooking utensils and aluminum beverage cans contribute
substantially to our load of aluminum Beer has more aluminum when it is packaged in aluminum cans. It
is best to use stainless steel cooking containers or glass or iron cookware. The older your aluminum
cookware is the more rapidly it corrodes. Acid-forming foods dissolve aluminum more rapidly. The
amoont of aluminum ingested from cookware, however is far exceeded by the amoonts ingested from
Food- Sodium ahonioum phosphate is ao additive in most baking powders, eake mises aod self-rising
flower .. If this form of aluminum combines with maltitol, a sugar-like flavoring agent, the resulting
aluminum compound is able to get through the blood-brain barrier 90 timea as well.
Potassium alum is used to whiten bleached flour.
Aluminum compounds are widely used aa additives to prepared foods. They lighteo food texture, adjust
acidity aod keep chunks of processed vegetables and fruits firmer.
Aluminum is even used in infant formulas and beer.
Sodium aluminosilicate or aluminum calcium silicate are added to table salt to absorb moisture and keep
it from caking.
Sodium aluminum phosphate is used as an emulsifier in processed cheese.
OTC aod prescription drugs – Alornioum is found in maoy over-the-counter paink:illers, auti-inllammstory
drugs aod douche preparations. For inataoce, aspirin is commonly buffered with aluminum hydroxide or
aluminum glycinate. If you wash down your aspirin with orange juice, the buffering powder becomes
aluminum citrate which is able to get through the blood-brain barrier five times as well.
Aluminum is included in maoy deotal amalgsma. It is added to some toothpastea. Read labels carefully
for chemicals such aa dihydroxyalornioum
Aluminum chlorhydrate is a prominant component of many antiperspirants. It is DESIGNED to be
absorbed Studies show that regular use of these products can raise the risk of Alzheimer’s by as much as
Aluminum hydroxide in antacids – Aluminum hydroxide in antacids may be the most common cause of
aluminum toxicity in the United States (where aotacids are widely advertised aod inappropristely used).
Elizabeth Jeffery, a research scientist at the Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of
lllinois says that “A normal dose ofTlllm will give you 5 grams of aluminum hydroxide a day.” This is
several hundred times the amount normally ingested from food sources. Besides creating digestive
complications by neutralizing stomach acid, other side effects are described below.
Aluminum smelting plants – People who work in aluminum smelting plants may experience dizziness,
loss of coardinstion and balance aod unusual fatigoe. This coold be the result of alominum accumulating
in nervous tissues.
Aluminum and silicon – These are two most abundant elements in dirt. When these two elements are
absorbed in the intestines they form compounds that accumulate in the cerebral cortex, blocking nerve
impulses. This is aggravated by calcium deficiencies.
The body is easily able to manage normal, natural levels of aluminum. The body excretes 74-96% of our
normal dietary intake of aluminum. Most of the alominum forms insoluble salts, especially phosphate
salts, in the intestine. These are mostly excreted in the feces instead ofbeing absorbed. In excess,
however, this can produce a phosphorous deficiency which leads to calcium loss which leads to structural
The aluminum that is absorbed is only poorly excreted by the kidneys aod cao easily accumulate in body
tissues. It tends to concentrate in the brain, liver, thyroid and lungs.
The elderly and those with kidney damage are especially at risk of accumulating aluminum.
Toxicity in soft tissues and organs
Aluminum can be toxic if it is present in tissues in excessive amounts. Usually, the body shows some
ability to adapt to increased aluminum intake over time. Individoals with hypophhosophatemia or
abnormal bone metabolism adapt less well.
Aluminum is excreted through the kidoeys. Excessive amounts damage the kidoeys, impair kidoey
function and can cause nephritis and may produce excessive sweating. Chronic renal insufficiency
increases the severity of other aluminum-induced diseases.
Aluminum toxicity produces symptoms of poor calcium metabolism similar to osteoporosis including
softening of the bones and rickets. Aluminum ingestion impairs absorption of selenium and phosphorus.
Because low serum phosphate causes the bones to dissolve and the nruscles to weaken, consumption of
aluminum reduces total bone and matrix formation as well as periosteal bone and matrix formation. The
weakened muscles can become painful, ache or twitch. Dialysis patients who get large doses of aluminum
risk the formation of osteomalacia.
Gastrointestinal irritation and disturbances produce colic, loss of appetite (anorexia), esophagitis,
Hepatic dysfunction (decreased liver function) can result in aoemia and loss of energy. Additional
syroptoms include dyspepsia, headaches.
Although there is a large amount of aluminum in dirt, it actually only fouod in small aroouots in plants.
Minute amounts of organic aluminum are needed in the brain to catalyze (activate) important enzyme
systems. The herb gotu kola, which has a reputation as a memory booster and brain enhancer, is assayed
to have among the highest levels of alumimnn of all herbs. (see Organic vs. Inorganic.)
Toxicity of inorganic aluminum in nerve and brain tissues
Surprisingly, aluminum is needed in very minute amounts to activate enzyme systems in the brain.
Excessive aluminum evidently accumulates in long-lived cells such as nerve cells where it gradually
poisons aod kills the cells.
Brain functions are distorbed by the deposit of ( eveo relatively small) excessive levels of aluminum
When aluminum salts accumolate in the brain, they reduce mental faculties. Alumimnn toxicity in the
brain produces symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s disease. Symptoms include forgetfulness, speech
disturbances, memory loss, dementia, psychosis, extreme nervousness, encephalopathy, ataxia and
Alzheimer’s disease is probably directly related to accumulation of inorganic aluminum in the brain.
Aluminum-injected rats learn at a slower rate and have aluminum concentrations in their brains parallel to
those found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. There has been some controversy over the concept that
aluminum deposits may be result of Alzheimer’s rather than the cause of it Some believe that aluminum
becoroes deposited oo the debris of dead cells.
The level of aluminum in ground water around the world does not seem to be related to the incidence of
Aluminum toxicity can also produce motor nerve paralysis and localized numbness.
The Aluminum- Magnesium Link
Research have suggested that aluminum may be more likely to accumulate in the brains of persons whose
diets are magnesium-deficient– which, unfortunately, includes 90% of Americans! Several studies have
shown that aoimals fed diets low in magnesium accumulate high cooceotrations of alumimnn in the
Central Nervous System. One of magnesium’s many functions is to activate the enzyme tubulin involved
in the maintenance of nerve tissue cells. It has been suggested that when there is not enough Magnesium
in the body to plug into the appropriate receptor site on the tubulin enzyme, aluminum takes its place
instead This leads to the inactivation oftubulin and, consequently, inadequate nerve function. Malic acid
can pull aluminum away from this enzyme, making a place for magnesium. This may be a protection
against Alzheimer’s disease. Malic Acid is found abundantly in fruits such as apples. Malic Acid is also
produced in the humao body. It is a metabolite of the Krebs cycle the set ofbiocheotical resctioos used to
produce 90% of all eoergy in the cells of the body. Malic Acid resdily crosses the Blood-Brain-Barrier
and has been shown to bind to aluminum. It functions in the body by drawing aluminum away from the
tubulin enzyme, so that Magnesium can plug into the receptor sites instead Malic Acid’s unique ability to
bind with aluminum means it cao be flushed oot of the body, preveoting unwaoted boild-up.
Because a Magnesium-deficient diet may increase the amount of aluminum taken up and stored by the
body, it is vitally important that we take in sufficient amounts.
“The evidence is strong enough that the prudent person will eliminate all food and cosmetic sources of
aluminum, and will use aluminum cooking utensils ooly if they are coated” Gary Price Todd, M.D.,
Nutrition, Health and Disease, 1985
High fiber diet – Fiber in the diet will bind with aluminum salts and carry them out with your next bowel
movement. Apple pectin, for instance is an effective binding agent.
Algin has the reputation of removing heavy metals. Typically, 5 capsules of algin are consumed in the
morning and again at noon for 10 days. After another 10 days ofrest, repeat the process. Continue for 3
months. They bind with aluminum and will carry it out nfthe body.
Several dozen sessions of intravenous EDTA chelation will remove a significant load of metals from the
body including obstructive calcium plaques from the arteries. Aluminum is not a “heavy metal.” There is
some controversy about the ability of intravenous EDTA chelation to remove aluminum.
“Oral chelation” – A serious program of specific nutrients can have a similar effect as intravenous
chelation when continued for some months. It is generally believed that oral chelating agents can displace
aluminum from tissues.
Lecithin – Bathes and protects the nerves includiog the brain.
B complex vitamins, especially B6 – are important for removing excess metals from the body.
Recent studies suggest that aluminum may be involved in the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease,
Parkinson’s disease, Gusm ALS-PD complex, ”Dialysis dementia”, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS),
senile and presenile dementia, neurofibrillary tangles, clumsiness of movements, staggering when
walking and an inability to pronouoce words properly (Berkum 1986; Goyer 1991; Shore and Wystt,
1983). To date, however, we do not coropletely understand the role that aluminum plays in the
progression of such human degenerative syndromes.
Chronic aluminum exposure bas contrihoted directly to hepatic failure, renal failure, and dementia (Arieff
eta!., 1979). Other symptoms that have been observed in individoals with high internal concentrations of
aluminum are colic, convulsions, esophagitis, gastroenteritis, kidney damage, liver dysfunction, loss of
appetite, loss nfbalance, muscle pain, psychosis, shortoess ofbreath, weakness, and fatigue (ATSDR
1990). Behavioral difficulties anumg schoolchildren have also been correlated with elevated levels of
aluminum and other nenro-toxic heavy metals (Goyer 1991 ). And, aluminum toxicity may also cause
bitth defects in newboros (ATSDR 1990).
With all the negative evidence mounting against aluminum, educated consumers will want to take
precautions in order to maintain their health and well being. Of course, the best way to avoid excess
aluminum is to cut back on aluminum intake from known sources. Use only stainless steel of cast iron
cookware, and look for aluminum-free antacids and deodorants. Always use filtered or spring water for
drinking and cooking.