Sunday, December 27, 2009

Aluminium and Alzheimer's disease

I've been planning on writing about this one for a while now because I feel like it's almost as prevalent a  myth as the vaccines and autism notion (which may just get its comeuppance again).  To disabuse both notions, there is no convincing evidence to suggest that exposure to aluminium (in the form of deodorants, antacids, from cookware, etc.) causes Alzheimer's disease, nor is there any evidence to suggest that vaccines cause autism.  I would love to know how these ideas gain such a strong foothold in the public consciousness when you consider the lack of data to support them.  But then it's easy to find websites propounding this nonsense (like this one, which conspicuously lacks any references for the claims being made) then there are movies (like when Ryan Reynolds' character in Smokin' Aces says he doesn't use deodorant because it causes Alzheimer's) and of course, you have celebrities (like Jim Carrey, Jenny McCarthy, and, sadly, Bill Maher) touting these myths as if they should be believed because celebrity somehow qualifies in place of medical expertise or advanced degrees.  Anyway, as for the aluminium and Alzheimer's myth, this one is pretty easy since I will just refer you to the Alzheimer's society webpage on the subject here, and then, as I usually like to do, I will try to boil it down for those of you with short attention spans... 
This particular myth seems to have started in the 1960s and 70s with a handful of studies where researchers gave animals large doses of aluminium phosphate and then, when they looked at their brains, found lots of proteins tangled up like last year's Xmas lights.  These knotted and tangled protein masses looked kinda like the protein tangles that are seen in the brains of Alzheimer's patients (called neurofibrillary tangles) and thus, the idea that aluminium may be linked in some way to Alzheimer's gained some momentum.  However, in the following decades, scientists conducted numerous studies to see if there really was a link.  The vast majority of the studies failed to detect any link between aluminum and Alzheimer's. Those few that have shown causality are almost all in non-human animals and have used doses that are much higher than anything you would come into contact with during your daily routine.  So, unless you plan on drinking solutions or medicines that are loaded with aluminum, or perhaps eating your soda cans after you drink out of them, you should have nothing to worry about.

1 comment:

  1. This post is really true about the importance of early detection of Alzheimer’s disease and how it can change the life of the patient and the family.

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