Does Aluminum Cause Alzheimer’s Disease?

by Amylee Amos MS, RDN, IFMCPLifestyle

In the 1960’s and 1970’s, aluminum seemed to be the prime suspect in Alzheimer’s disease. The media warned against products containing aluminum, and much research investigated the relationship between aluminum and the development of Alzheimer’s and other dementia. As with much research regarding environmental contributors to cognitive decline, the results were inconclusive. This led global organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Association to come out in defense of aluminum. The Alzheimer’s Association currently states on their website that aluminum does not cause Alzheimer’s disease, and specifically that it is a myth that drinking from aluminum cans or cooking with aluminum pans causes Alzheimer’s disease (1). Part of the issue with questions and statements such as these is the wording. Aluminum does not cause Alzheimer’s disease, but it may be one of many contributors to Alzheimer’s disease. Causation implies that factor A causes outcome B. Alzheimer’s disease is more complex than simple causation. Rather for most people, multiple contributors drive the development of Alzheimer’s. Environmental factors contribute to Alzheimer’s for many people and recent research shows that aluminum may be one of these contributors. This is why so much research on so many different theories of the cause of Alzheimer’s disease have led to so few (basically zero) effective treatments (2). 

The Relationship Between Aluminum and Alzheimer’s Disease

Several decades back, aluminum was first implicated in Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers began to highlight the relationship between this metal and the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s. As a result, people became aware of the aluminum present in their deodorants, in their pots and pans, and in food and beverage containers. As mentioned above, more research looking into aluminum as the one and only cause of Alzheimer’s disease was conducted and led to inconclusive results. This is because many different factors contribute to Alzheimer’s and the factors vary from person to person. Nonetheless, the inconclusive results led to a more relaxed stance on aluminum and far less talk on the relationship between aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease in recent years. 

A study published last month in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease Reports again links aluminum to Alzheimer’s disease. Specifically, the researchers found that aluminum is intricately connected with the neuropathology of familial Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers stated that the data, “...support the intricate associations of aluminum in the neuropathology of [familial Alzheimer’s disease], of which its subsequent reduction may further therapeutic benefits observed in ongoing clinical trials in vivo” (3). This new research is helpful because it builds on the already existing evidence that shows there are many environmental contributors to Alzheimer’s disease. 

Should You Be Concerned About Aluminum Exposure?

This new and previously conducted research brings with it the question, should we be concerned about aluminum? Is aluminum a major contributor to Alzheimer’s disease? The fact is, more research is needed to know for sure. The current state of the research shows us that a relationship exists, and that fact alone means we should pay attention to our aluminum exposure. The great news is that we can reduce our exposure to aluminum through a few very simple steps. At the Amos Institute, we recommend taking every step that you can reasonably take to reduce your environmental exposures to Alzheimer’s disease. We may not be able to change our genetics, but we have huge control over our environment. By taking small and simple steps to reduce aluminum exposures in your life, you will greatly reduce your overall environmental risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. 

4 Ways to Reduce Your Exposure to Aluminum

  1. Swap out your deodorant for one that does not contain aluminum.

    Aluminum functions as the antiperspirant in many common deodorant products, meaning that it reduces the amount that you sweat. While aluminum is a common ingredient in many antiperspirant deodorants, it is now easier than ever to find products made without aluminum. Reading the ingredient label will help you determine if your deodorant contains aluminum. If it does, swap it out for an alternative that does not. If you need a recommendation, check out the EWG’s Skin Deep site to help you find a product that is free from aluminum and other harmful endocrine disrupting chemicals. 

  2. Stop using aluminum pots and pans.

    When cooking with aluminum pots and pans, the aluminum leaches out into the food. We then inadvertently consume the aluminum. This problem is exacerbated when cooking with acidic foods such as tomatoes, lemons, vinegar, etc. The great news is that there are many safe cookware alternatives. Swap out any aluminum cookware you have for stainless steel or another safe alternative. 

  3. Avoid over the counter antacids.

    Some antacids contain aluminum hydroxide. If you experience occasional indigestion, rather than popping an antacid, drink a cup of ginger tea. If you find you regularly need to take antacids or that your indigestion is more severe, there is likely a larger digestive issue at play, which needs to be addressed. In this case, see a functionally trained registered dietitian to help you address the root cause of your digestive issues. 

  4. Reduce your use of aluminum based food packaging.

    Skip on products like aluminum foil and instead wrap foods in parchment or store them in silicone bags or glass containers. Avoid purchasing coffee pods in aluminum capsules. Aluminum is ubiquitous in our food supply, so completely avoiding aluminum may not be possible. However, simply reducing your exposure by not using aluminum foil anymore is a step in the right direction. 

Although aluminum is not a direct cause of Alzheimer’s disease, the relationship between aluminum and Alzheimer’s documented in published literature is enough to give us pause and be mindful of our exposure to aluminum. While we may not be able to avoid aluminum entirely, and while that may not even be necessary, the simple steps listed above will not just reduce your exposure to aluminum, but will also reduce your exposure to myriad other toxins. If you are looking to further improve your lifestyle to help you reduce your risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease, join the Amos Institute today. 


References:

  1. Alzheimer’s Association (2021). Myths. https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-alzheimers/myths
  2. Bredesen, D.E. (2020). The End of Alzheimer’s Program. Penguin Random House: New York. 
  3. Mold, M.J. et al. (2021). ‘Aluminum and Tau in Neurofibrillary Tangles in Familial Alzheimer’s Disease’. 283 – 294.