How Can Aluminum Affect the Health?
Complete avoidance of aluminum is impossible, as this metal is one of the most widespread ones on the planet and it can be found in the soil, water, the food we eat, and even in the air we breathe. Usually, our body is good at washing out excess aluminum through urine, but when exposure to the metal rises, some of the excess aluminum ends up accumulating in the body, which is when it can become dangerous to human health.
This is why many international regulatory bodies, such as the World Health Organization and European Food Safety Authority determined a tolerable weekly aluminum intake of 1 milligram per kilogram (2.2 lbs) of body weight per week. So, for example, if you weight 65 kg (143 lbs), your intake of aluminum should not exceed 65 mg a week.
Although there is too little evidence regarding the effects of excessive aluminum intake on human health, studies have linked it to the following conditions:
- Neurotoxicity, adverse effects on the nervous system.
- Alzheimer's disease, with unusually high levels of aluminum found in Alzheimer's patients' brains.
- IBD, but only in animal models and in vitro studies.
- Breast cancer.
In a recent large scale study conducted in Germany, researchers found that people typically consume twice the amount of aluminum they should be from food and cosmetics alone, so we thought it might be useful to learn about the ways you can lower your aluminum intake and prevent the development of any potential adverse reactions.
Here are 9 ways that will help you significantly lower your weekly aluminum intake:
1. Cosmetic and Self Care Products
Look at the ingredients in your cosmetic products, especially toothpaste and antiperspirants, as these two categories of products often contain aluminum. In antiperspirants, aluminum is used as an agent that can prevent you from sweating by blocking your pores, but it may be absorbed into your body as well.
The same German study we mentioned earlier even suggested that antiperspirants containing aluminum alone may exceed the recommended weekly exposure to the metal.
On a slightly different note, certain medications, such as antacids, for example, can contain high levels of aluminum, but usually, the benefits of these medications outweigh their risks, so we wouldn't recommend avoiding them, especially if they were prescribed to you by a doctor.
2. Cooking Utensils
Avoid cooking and storing food in uncoated aluminum pots or aluminum foil, as aluminum particles can seep into your food, and then travel into your body. This is particularly true when it comes to highly acidic foods, such as tomato sauces, soups, etc., as well as salty foods, as both salt and plant-derived acids will eat through the foil and utensils faster and aluminum particles will travel into the food.
As previously mentioned, water can be another source of aluminum exposure, with some areas containing higher levels of aluminum in the soil and water than others. If you know that the water in your area contains high quantities of aluminum, you'll be better off investing in some type of water purification system, i.e. water filters, to protect yourself from the dangers of excessive exposure.
4. Takeaway Boxes
Metal takeaway boxes are so popular, but the thing is that all of them are made of aluminum, so they're not the best way to store food, being pretty much equal to using aluminum foil to wrap up your foods. Try to avoid these boxes and opt for paper takeaway boxes. These are not only biodegradable and kinder to the planet, but they're also better for your health than aluminum or plastic ones.
5. Store-Bought Foods
Buying food in supermarkets is tricky, as you will never know how the food was prepared, what kind of water was used to make the product, and how it was stored. To minimize your aluminum exposure from store-bought products, your best bet is NOT to stick to one brand. Even if some of the foods you buy will contain aluminum, by switching them up with those that potentially don't contain it will help you lower your overall exposure to the metal.
6. Fruit and Vegetables
Most fruit and vegetables will have some aluminum in them naturally, but farmers also add pesticides containing aluminum when they grow plant produce, so make sure to wash all the fruit and veggies you buy thoroughly before adding them to dishes or eating. Apart from that, certain foods, such as spinach, tea leaves, mushrooms, and radishes tend to absorb more aluminum than others, so it's best to either purchase these organic or consume them in moderation.
7. Aluminum Foil and Single-Use Aluminum Baking Pans
Heat is another factor that will cause aluminum particles to seep into your foods, so using aluminum foil or those single-use aluminum tins that are so often used in baking is not the greatest idea if you're planning on minimizing your aluminum intake.
This doesn't mean that you have to forget about grilling meat or vegetables in aluminum foil forever, but do be mindful of the tools you use when you're cooking and don't abuse aluminum cooking equipment.
8. Processed Foods
Another reason why you should stay away from store-bought snacks and processed, packaged foods is because of the chemicals they use to make food last longer and look better. Aluminum is routinely used in food coloring, thickeners and anti-caking ingredients in commercially produced foods. For this reason, get in the habit of preparing homemade snacks and desserts, such as cookies, as commercial products have been suggested in studies to contain more aluminum than homemade foods due to these additives.
9. No Need to Be Afraid of Canned Foods and Drinks
There are plenty of reasons to avoid canned soft drinks, but aluminum exposure is not one of them. There was a study conducted on the quantity of aluminum in canned drinks, and it found that even after 12 months of storage, the concentration of aluminum in the drink was negligible compared to the exposure we get from foods.
Needless to say, we're not urging you to start consuming canned sugary drinks. Instead, we'd just like to say that consuming foods and drinks that come in aluminum cans is safe for your health in terms of their risks of aluminum exposure.