Does Aluminum Cause Alzheimer's?

ADVISOR ANSWERS

Q: My sister told me there's a connection between aluminum and Alzheimer's disease and suggested I throw out my aluminum pots and pans. She also told me that there's a lot of aluminum in antiperspirants, and that I should switch to just deodorant. Is this necessary?
-- W.T., Del Mar, California

A: The debate over whether aluminum plays any role in Alzheimer's disease has evolved over the 40 years that researchers have been exploring this question. The theory that aluminum might be involved emerged in the 1960s after scientists discovered that exposing rabbits to aluminum caused nerve cell damage with some similarity to the conditions of Alzheimer's. These observations raised the question as to whether aluminum might be one of the first substances implicated in triggering Alzheimer's.

However, studies since then have failed to clearly determine if aluminum has a role in causing Alzheimer's. Although research into the Alzheimer's/aluminum connection continues, most mainstream health professionals believe, based on current knowledge, that exposure to aluminum is not a significant risk factor.

Further, it is unlikely that people can significantly reduce their exposure to aluminum through such measures as avoiding aluminum-containing cookware, foil, beverage cans, medications, antiperspirants, and other products. Even if aluminum were clearly implicated in Alzheimer's, these routes of exposure account for only a small percentage of the average person's intake.

The Alzheimer's Association and many experts encourage people to focus wellness efforts with a proven impact on health or quality of life -- avoiding smoking, exercising regularly, eating moderately, maintaining social connections, and remaining intellectually active.

-- Laura Printy, Alzheimer's Association professional education manager