Aluminum is found in products sold across the globe, from cookware to personal care goods. However, recent scientific studies have shed light on potential concerns regarding the use of aluminum and its impact on health. In this article we’ll explore where aluminum is found, its potential risks, and how to decrease your exposure.
Aluminum in Personal Care Products
Aluminum salts are often added to antiperspirants to block sweat from forming at the pores. This is concerning, since aluminum can cause DNA damage and impact the endocrine system, which controls hormones that affect mood, metabolism, and reproduction.
Aluminum can be absorbed through the skin, including the armpit, and its absorption is six times greater when skin has recently been shaved. Due to the location of armpits in relation to breasts, aluminum antiperspirants raise questions about potential implications for breast cancer. Research suggests that aluminum can affect how genes interact with the hormone estrogen, particularly within breast cancer tumors. In addition, studies have revealed significantly higher levels of aluminum in the breasts of breast cancer patients.
Aluminum in the Kitchen
Aluminum foil is commonly used for cooking or wrapping leftovers. Studies have shown a significant increase in aluminum concentrations in food when foil is used in cooking, especially when food is seasoned. However, some research shows that cooking at lower temperatures (below 160ºC or 320ºF) is safer, as it leads to less foil degradation.
Aluminum-Related Health Risks
While no immediate dangers of dietary aluminum have been identified, there is growing concern that prolonged exposure to aluminum may contribute to the development of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and Multiple Sclerosis.
Aluminum has been labeled as a neurotoxin, and while the precise understanding of how it affects the body is limited, it may impact how genes are expressed in the brain. Aluminum is thought to change the activity of certain proteins and enzymes in the brain by binding to them and altering their shape or structure. This can cause an unwinding of DNA and disrupt the DNA replication process, which can trigger inflammation and cell death. Some studies have found aluminum-associated inflammation in parts of the brain, which may contribute to a neurodegenerative effect, but aluminum’s potential role isn’t fully understood.
How to Decrease Your Aluminum Exposure
Given the research regarding the risks of aluminum, there has been an uptick in aluminum alternatives. For example, there are now many aluminum-free antiperspirants on the market. If you’re unsure if a deodorant is aluminum-free, look for ingredients like aluminum chlorohydrate, aluminum ziroconium, or any other chemical name containing the word aluminum.
To decrease aluminum in your kitchen, consider switching to stainless steel or cast-iron cookware to avoid the leaching of toxic metals into your food. In place of aluminum foil when baking, look for reusable tray liners or parchment paper. And instead of wrapping leftovers in aluminum foil, use reusable food storage containers made from glass.