Is Aluminum Cookware Bad for Your Health?

For many years, rumors have circulated about aluminum cookware.  Some people have said that using aluminum is toxic, while others claim a link between aluminum cookware and Alzheimer's disease.  So is aluminum cookware bad for your health?
 

The Dangers of Consuming Aluminum

It's true that aluminum is toxic to humans in large concentrations.  However, aluminum is also one of the most common elements in our environment, and it is present in our water, in many foods, and in both prescription and over-the-counter medications.  Aspirin, antacids, and antiperspirants all contain high levels of aluminum.  

Furthermore, only a tiny fraction of the aluminum that people consume is absorbed into the body, the rest passing harmlessly through the digestive tract.  Most people consume between 30 and 50 mg of aluminum per day, with no ill effect.

The Amounts of Aluminum Transferred Through Cookware

Aluminum cookware can react with foods, especially those, such as tomato sauce, which are high in vinegar or acid.  This reaction leaks a trace amount of aluminum into the foods, which are then consumed.  Some types of aluminum cookware are treated so that the aluminum is unable to react with foods.  For example, anodized aluminum uses a chemical bath and an electrical current to bind the aluminum into the pan.

Researchers studied the amount of aluminum that could leak into foods by cooking a tomato sauce in an untreated pan.  Even this most potent combination resulted in only 3 mg per serving, less than 10% of the average daily consumption.  This is far too little to pose a health risk.

Aluminum Cookware and the Link to Alzheimer's Disease

In the 1970s, Canadian researchers released a report that indicated that Alzheimer's patients showed evidence of higher levels of aluminum in the brain than healthy patients.  A link was immediately drawn between the popularity of aluminum cookware (which accounts for more than half of all cookware sold) and increasingly large numbers of Alzheimer's patients.

In the years since those initial findings, however, this link has been discounted.  There is no evidence to support the theory that increased consumption of aluminum increases the risk of contracting Alzheimer's.  It's possible that having the disease causes more aluminum to be stored in the brain or that there is no link between aluminum and Alzheimer's at all.  Researchers are still investigating the relationship, but it is quite certain that the culprit behind Alzheimer's is not aluminum cookware.

Conclusion

Aluminum pans do not pose a health risk to their users, even if they are scratched or pitted.  The amount of aluminum that leaks into food is negligible, and far less than that consumed through other methods.

 

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