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Reducing Your Risk of Alzheimer's Disease

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Alzheimer's disease, or senile dementia of the Alzheimer's type, will be one of America's greatest health problems in coming years. Sixty percent of patients now admitted to nursing homes have this diagnosis, and the number of Alzheimer's victims is projected to increase 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 Canada, show a direct correlation between the prevalence of Alzheimer's disease and aluminum concentrations in the drinking water.1,2,3,4 In fact, one British study reported in the highly respected medical journal The Lancet, showed the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease to be 50 percent greater where drinking water contained high levels of aluminum.5

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 determine if this would be beneficial for Alzheimer's patients. One fascinating study also reported in The Lancet, showed that by administering desferrioxamine, a chemical known to remove aluminum and other metals from the body, the progression of dementia associated with Alzheimer's disease was significantly slowed.6

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 reduced 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 Alzheimer's patients."

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 efficiently. Laboratory research has shown that we can handle about twenty milligrams of aluminum ingestion each day.7 Unfortunately, most of us are exposed to and ingest far more aluminum than our 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 mixes, self-rising flour, prepared doughs, nondairy creamers, pickles and in some brands of baking powder. Aluminum lauryl 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.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.