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Role of Aluminum in Alzheimer's Disease Subject of New Study


Researchers at Keele University are exploring the connection between aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease, a subject that has been the topic of debate for many years. This currently active study will hopefully answer questions about the role of aluminum in Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

Aluminum is a known neurotoxin

Aluminum is a popular metal because it is lightweight, malleable, and nonmagnetic, which makes it a candidate for numerous industrial and consumer applications. This element is used in everything from cars and appliances to cooking utensils, antacids, and antiperspirants, so consumers are exposed to aluminum at many levels.

Unlike some other elements, aluminum is not essential for life, and is in fact a neurotoxin that has been named as a potential contributing factor in parkinsonism dementia, Gulf War syndrome, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore it is essential to verify these connections and to find ways to prevent the element from damaging the body and brain.

Investigators at Keele University are conducting an extension of a previous study in 2006 in which they discovered that aluminum could be excreted from the body of people who had Alzheimer’s disease when they drank mineral water rich in silicon. The new study will involve both patients who have Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers will consume silicon-rich mineral water for 13 weeks.

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According to Dr. Christopher Exley, Reader in Bioinorganic Chemistry at Keele, “the primary objective is to confirm that regular drinking of a silicon-rich mineral water will help to remove aluminum from the body.” The idea is that if aluminum is a contributing factor in Alzheimer’s disease, eliminating it from the body could be beneficial for these patients.

Researchers with the new study will be monitoring the excretion of aluminum, silicon, and iron from all the participants, as well as evaluating the cognitive abilities of both patients and caregivers to determine if the silicon-rich mineral water offers any benefits.

On the heels of the announcement of the Keele study are the findings of a new review published in the International Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. In it, the authors concluded there is “growing evidence for a link” between aluminum and Alzheimer’s and that aluminum “is a recognized neurotoxin, and that it could cause cognitive deficiency and dementia when it enters the brain.”

Research using mass spectrometry has shown that aluminum crosses the blood brain barrier and enters into brain tissue, where it accumulates. Therefore aluminum may cause significant health problems in some individuals.

The Keele University study of aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease is just one of many efforts to find ways to understand, prevent, and treat this devastating disease. More than 26 million people around the world now have Alzheimer’s, and it was estimated by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health that the number would reach 106 million by 2050.

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Kawahara M, Kato-Negishi M. International Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease 2011 Mar 8; doi: 10.4061/2011/276393
Keele University
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