That aluminum salts from cookware can leach from the pot into the food being cooked, particularly if the food is acidic, and the corresponding symptoms that result, has been known for a number of years. For this reason, the sale of aluminum-lined cookware is prohibited in Germany, France, Belgium, Great Britain, Switzerland, Hungary, and Brazil. It is still permitted in America but most aluminum cookware sold in America today is lined with a non-stick finish another thing to avoid.
Most aluminum cookware manufactured today is anodized. When a cookware label says it is made from anodized aluminum, it means that the aluminum was dipped into a hot acid bath that seals the aluminum by changing it's molecular structure. Once anodized, the aluminum will not leach into food, and so would not contribute to aluminum exposure.
As to whether or not aluminum foil leaches aluminum, logic tells me yes it would. If a standard aluminum pot will leach aluminum, then a sheet of aluminum would also leach, unless it was coated or anodized. Aluminum foil is produced by passing aluminum between rollers under pressure. It is shiny on one side only because as it passes through the final rollers, two thicknesses of foil are rolled together. The sides facing each other have the dull finish, while the sides in contact with the rollers become shiny from the burnishing effect of the rollers. It looks like nothing is applied to the aluminum that would prevent leaching.
Aluminum soda cans also leach aluminum into soft drinks. I don't know if they are the worst, but they definately do leach.
As to whether or not cooking with aluminum or any of these other exposures are is linked to Alzheimer's...that's a big question.
Aluminum is ubiquitous in our environment. It is the third most abundant element in the earth's crust oxygen is #1, silicon is #2. Aluminum is in our air, water and soil, and therefore in the plants and animals we eat. Because every time we breathe, eat or drink we take small quantities of aluminium into our bodies, our bodies have highly effective natural functions to remove the amount of aluminum we are exposed to in the natural environment. According to the International Aluminum Institute, "recent studies have shown that the absorption of aluminium from the digestive tracts is often as low as 0.001%". And in healthy individuals, the kidneys quickly excrete most of the aluminum our bodies absorb.
The problem with aluminum and health is that in our industrial world, we are exposed to much more aluminum that we would be exposed to in a natural environment. The amount we are exposed to in our industrial life is more than our bodies are designed to handle. So even though aluminum is ubiquitous in nature, that doesn't mean our bodies can tolerate the excessive amount of aluminum in our industrial world.
Exposure to aluminum can cause many more health problems than just Alzheimer's Disease.
The MedicineNet.com website says aluminum toxicity occurs in people with renal insufficiency. This generally applies to people who are treated by dialysis with aluminum-contaminated solutions or oral agents that contain aluminum, however today many people have weak kidneys from being overstressed by other environmental toxins. It is likely that most people today have some degree of renal insufficiency--not to the point of needing dialysis, but enough that their kidneys are probably not working optimally to flush the aluminum out of the body.
MedicineNet.com notes "The clinical manifestations of aluminum toxicity include anemia, bone disease, and progressive dementia with increased concentrations of aluminum in the brain. Prolonged intravenous feeding of preterm infants with solutions containing aluminum is associated with impaired neurologic development."
There are several websites that have compiled copious lists of references on the health effects of aluminum (see below). The health effects are far too vast to even begin to summarize them here. Suffice it to say that there the toxicity of aluminum is well documented beyond Alzheimer's. My personal conclusion is to minimize my exposure to aluminum as much as is practical. For me, this includes not cooking in aluminum cookware and aluminum foil.
If your main concern about aluminum exposure is to reduce your risk factors for Alzheimer's, let's ask, "Are their other factors that contribute to Alzheminer's that are more important to consider?"
Dr. Joseph Mercola puts aluminum low on his list of risk factors for Alzheimer's. Though as our population continues to age the number of people with Alzheimer's disease is expected to increase by 70 percent, Dr. Mercola correctly points out that "Alzheimer's disease is not a normal part of aging, and there are ways to reduce your chances of getting the disease."
He recommends eating a nutritious diet with lots of fresh vegetables and few grains and sugars, regular exercise, avoiding mercury, and avoiding aluminum. Researchers have also found that continued mental stimulation is associated with a decreased risk of Alzheimer's. All these recommendations are part of good overall health maintenance.
If you are wanting to reduce your exposure to aluminum, cookware is not at the top of the list either.
According to Food and Drug Administration FDA, "in a worst-case scenario, a person using uncoated aluminum pans for all cooking and food storage every day would take in an estimated 3.5 milligrams of aluminum daily." By contrast, "one antacid tablet can contain 50 milligrams of aluminum or more, and it is not unusual for a person with an upset stomach to consume more than 1,000 milligrams, or 1 gram, of aluminum per day. A buffered aspirin tablet may contain about 10 to 20 milligrams of aluminum." If you use these products, look for aluminum-free antacids and plain, non-buffered aspirin.
Other sources of aluminum exposure include:
- table salt which is industrial sodium chloride--use a natural salt instead
- baking powder 5 to 70 milligrams of sodium aluminum sulfate per teaspoon and baked goods and packaged baking mixes containing baking powder check your natural food store for aluminum-free baking powder and natural baking mixes and baked goods made with aluminum-free baking powder
- antipersirants containing aluminum chlorohydrate again, check your natural food store for aluminum-free deodorants
- aluminum beverage cans
- aluminum foil
- anti-dandruff preparations magnesium aluminum silicate or aluminum lauryl sulfate
- feminime douches aluminum salts
A study done by the University of Cincinnati Medical Center showed that using aluminum pots and pans to cook tomatoes doubled the aluminum content of the tomatoes, but still, this was only from 2 to 4 milligrams per serving.
The biggest source of aluminum actually comes from our municipal water supplies. Many municipal water supplies are treated with both aluminum sulfate and aluminum fluoride. And if your water is fluoridated, the situation is even worse. The National Institutes of Environmental Heath Sciences NIEHS acknowledged that fluoride has been observed to have synergistic effects on the toxicity of aluminum. They found boiling fluoridated tap water in an aluminum pan leached almost 200 parts per million ppm of aluminum into the water in 10 minutes and leaching of up to 600 PPM occurred with prolonged boiling. Using non-fluoridated water showed almost no leaching from aluminum pans.
If you are concerned about your own exposure to aluminum, a hair analysis can be used to determine levels of aluminum in your body.
Aluminum An extensive list of excerpts from scientific journals regarding aluminum toxicity, with references.
International Aluminum Institute History, manufacturing practices, environmental impacts and benefits aluminum is recyclable and use of aluminum in products.
Alzheimer's Society How the body responds to aluminum exposure and connection between aluminum and Alzheimer's.
The Aluminum Connection Very detailed website with many links to reports and studies that associated metal exposures including aluminum to various common illnesses. Much about brain function, autism, Alzheimer's.
Aluminum--An Internet Hotlist on Aluminum An annotated list of links to websites that cover all aspects of aluminum.