A lot has been written and said about the negative effects of aluminum – especially in regard to Alzheimer’s disease.
Is there any evidence that aluminum in cooking foil and and deodorant is present in levels high enough to cause concern?
While we are on the subject of foils and wraps – is cling-film plastic something we should be wrapping our food in?
Lastly, is it true that micro-waving food wrapped in cling-film is yet another way to slowly kill yourself?
– Jake Shields Valley Stream, NY
Great questions — let’s cover them one at a time.
The connection between aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease is still being determined.
What we do know is that the brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease contain much higher concentrations of aluminum than those of individuals who do not have the neurodegenerative disease.
What we don’t know is whether those high concentrations of aluminum cause Alzheimer’s disease or if they are a manifestation of Alzheimer’s disease.
If you look at the scientific literature, there is no clear consensus either way.
As far as aluminum intake from the diet is concerned, we know that acidic foods cooked in aluminum pots absorb higher amounts of the metal than non-acidic foods.
We also know that a very small percentage of the aluminum in aluminum foil can be leached into foods when exposed to high heat (e.g.: a baked potato wrapped in foil).
As with anything else relating to nutrition, it is important to keep context in mind.
I, for instance, use aluminum foil in my cooking approximately once a month (there’s a particular dish I make that requires me to cover it in foil during the first 15 minutes of cooking).
I don’t worry about it, in the same way that I would not be concerned if someone with consistently nutritious habits eats a large Big Mac value meal once a month.
If lowering your risk of Alzheimer’s disease is a concern, there are more established things you can do:
Follow a heart-healthy diet (rich in monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids)
Engage in strenuous physical activity three or more times a week
Continually challenge your brain (whether it’s by doing crossword puzzles or brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand)
These three things all help to lower risk either by keeping certain parts of the brain active or by keeping arteries healthy. Remember, the health of your arteries has a significant effect on your neurological health — the brain needs adequate blood circulation to remain in tip-top shape.
Remember, too, that many over-the-counter antacids contain very high amounts of aluminum (about twenty or thirty times as much as you would from cooking with aluminum pans).
As far as clingwrap goes, studies have found that foods high in fat can absorb plasticides in traditional clingwrap (which is made from polyvinylidene chloride, also known as PVC).
While pretty much all clingwrap was once made from PVC, alternative varieties made from low density polyethylene are becoming more common.
These newer varieties do not leach plasticides and are considered microwave-safe. Of course, you can always err on the side of caution and heat food in other containers (glass, ceramic, etc.)