Science hasn’t found evidence of a strong connection between high levels of aluminum and Alzheimer’s development. However, research is ongoing, and you could be a part of it.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that’s classified as one of the most prevalent types of dementia. Not only does it cause memory loss, but it can also impair basic brain function and the ability to manage daily tasks. Alzheimer’s also has an impact on the affected person’s loved ones as they watch a person transform before their eyes.
While experts believe that this disease is caused by an excessive buildup of proteins around and in brain cells, many people believe that aluminum exposure might also be to blame. This lay theory assumes that because aluminum has been linked to other neurological issues, it could also influence the onset of Alzheimer’s.
Let’s examine whether a true link between Alzheimer’s disease and aluminum exists and the potential risks of aluminum exposure.
However, they do know that a combination of factors such as age, genetics, environmental factors, and even lifestyle habits can encourage its development. Because there’s an environmental component involved, it’s understandable that people might think that exposure to potentially toxic materials could lead to Alzheimer’s.
To date, research into a definitive link between aluminum exposure (e.g., wearing deodorant and antiperspirants, cooking with aluminum bakeware, or using aluminum foil) and Alzheimer’s is inconclusive.
So, at least within the medical and scientific communities, the theory that aluminum exposure could potentially lead to Alzheimer’s is not widely supported or promoted.
How does aluminum get into brain tissue?
It’s important to note that aluminum is naturally found in the body. We consume it in our daily diet, and it’s specifically found in processed foods. It can be measured in the blood and urine. However, aluminum found in water and foods is not easily absorbed by the body — only 1% is absorbed.
While there are a few studies that confirm excessive aluminum exposure can lead to other negative health outcomes, the same can’t be said for directly linking aluminum with causing Alzheimer’s. Depending on the study, a case can be made for or against this theory.
However, only people with a recorded exposure of 100 micrograms per gram of creatinine in the urine tested poorly on neurological tests that checked for attention, learning, and memory. Still, even with these criteria, these participants did not exhibit encephalopathy or dementia.
But another 2017 clinical review that examined other studies targeting the presence of heavy metals in people with Alzheimer’s did find a correlation between higher aluminum levels and the disease. While this review highlighted a pattern, it stopped short of declaring a definitive link and instead recommended that more research is needed.
A 2021 Canadian study was commissioned to determine whether there was a link between aluminum in drinking water and Alzheimer’s. This study found that no clear correlation existed.
Ultimately, all current studies maintain that further research is needed and that no conclusive connection can be made between aluminum levels in the body and developing Alzheimer’s.
What causes Alzheimer’s
To date, the direct cause of Alzheimer’s is unknown. However, researchers believe that a combination of factors — especially age — can increase a person’s risk of developing the disease.
Specifically, age, genetics, environmental factors, and behavioral habits can all influence the chances of a person having Alzheimer’s.
Current research either rejects the notion that aluminum can harm the brain or finds that the evidence is inconclusive. But the myth persists.
The idea that aluminum could harm brain health likely arose from studies in 1965 involving animals. But these studies did not account for real-world limitations. Specifically, the animals in those experiments were exposed to extremely high aluminum levels that are far more than a person would ever experience in real life.
After those studies, speculation began that aluminum exposure from canned foods, cookware, or even trace elements in processed foods or drinking water could negatively affect people. However, subsequent studies continue to prove inconclusive.
Sometimes misunderstanding or “cherry picking” scientific data can also lead to confusion on the subject. For example, the Canadian study mentioned earlier can be interpreted to make it look like it supports the conclusion that high aluminum levels in drinking water were causing Alzheimer’s.
In their results, they did find higher levels of Alzheimer’s, but that same subset of participants was also found to have higher concentrations of
If you want to help solve the mystery of what causes Alzheimer’s, check out ClinicalTrials.gov to see what studies are currently looking for participants. Just make sure to check with your doctor before starting any trial, especially if it would involve changes to any current medications you’re taking.
While no single cause can be directly blamed for Alzheimer’s, researchers do know that age is one of the biggest contributing factors.
Aluminum has been a convenient scapegoat thanks to early studies with faulty methods, but research conducted with clear parameters and better oversight remains inconclusive on aluminum’s ability to trigger Alzheimer’s.
It’s also important to remember that people are routinely exposed to aluminum and can normally have anywhere from 30 to 50 micrograms of aluminum in their bodies.