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Nov 2, 2009 11:22 AM

Aluminum pans a hazard-bunk!

Does anyone know where this myth got started. I heard it first in the '70s coming from health nuts trying to link Alzheimer's and aluminum, because more aluminum was found in bodies of Alzheimer's patients. I think we now know that Alzheimer's is caused by high cholesterol. There may be a genetic predisposition to the early-onset Alzheimer's, since it tends to run in families.

My mother's Alzheimer's began in her eighties, after 2 bypasses and years of crazy eating. Her lipotor probably prolonged her ability to function. Even now, the progession is fairly slow, though continual. (She is 92) She used Wearever aluminum pans for cooking for 2-3 decades. Do I think there is a link between the two? No I don't. She has classic heart disease with high cholesterol, and I think that is why she has Alzheimer's.

Back in the '70s I actually had an older pharmacist tell me I shouldn't use antiperspirent because of the ingredient aluminum chlorohydrate. He said you could could get a lump under the arm and it could travel to the breast and be cancerous. I thought that was crackpot.

Where did this fear of aluminum get started?

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  1. We don't "know" that Alzheimer's is caused by high cholesterol; there is a link, but it's not quite open-and-shut.

    As for fear of aluminum cookware, it's just fearmongering mad-libs. For every ____________ there's a ________________. Some people fear PTFE, others aluminum, still others _________.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ferret

      You make a good point, although I think high cholesterol probably is the culprit. But every so often you read a post where a person is having such a hard time because he/she does not want to use aluminum cookware.

      Apparently there are many very real risks, such as the bisphenol(?) I was reading about today which is in cans, and plastics. But aluminum is not one of them.

      1. re: Ambimom

        As far back as 1997. There is a tremendous amount of research being done at Wash U in St. Louis regarding Alzheimer's.

        I still wonder how all of that got started. Perhaps it got conflated with the knowledge that aluminum should not be used to cook or store high acid foods?

        1. re: sueatmo

          I just don't think we know yet what causes it, sue. In a way, the cholesterol theory could make sense, at least for some patients, because of it's contributions to the narrowing of the arteries. But I think generally I agree with taos, or at least I should say I'm not convinced at this point about the cholesterol. How do we even know it's brought about by one thing in all patients, or that there's one *type* of Alzheimer's. We're still early in our research with this disease. As a parallel, I think we're beginning to understand that there are plural types of Autism, but it's taken us decades to get to this theory.

          Like you, though, I pretty much discount the aluminum pan theory. You know, aluminum pans were so popular during the era that folks of my mother's age got married (in the '40s and '50s). Then we moved into the era of stainless. If aluminum pans were the culprit, wouldn't we have seen a high spike in the incidence of Alzheimers among my mother's generation and possible their children, and then see it drop off again as aluminum pans fell out of favor for Farberware, All-Clad and AC knockoffs?

          Like taos, I'm sorry to know that your mother and your family have been dealing with this. I'm glad to hear that management of her condition slowed it at least somewhat, and I'm thinking of her.

          1. re: Normandie

            Well thanks Normandie for the nice note. My rant was more about aluminum than Alzheimer's--at least that's how it started out. I guess I don't know how "urban myths" which are not proven can be so widely believed, and for so long. I have several pieces of anodized aluminum pots. I don't think for me plain aluminum is practical because if you cook high acid foods in them, they pit and discolor. But I do like the conductivity of certain aluminum pans.

            For every day cooking you can't beat stainless pans, esp. if you want to dishwash them.

            We have to watch out now for so many hazards--merucury in certain fish, HFCS in almost everything, now bisphenols in plastic and canned goods!--it seems a shame to waste worry on something that likey is not a valid concern.

      2. After the first study that showed a link between high total serum cholesterol and alzheimers, there were other study showing no connection.

        I'm sorry to hear about your mother, but it's not necessarily true that high cholesterol causes alzheimers.

        1 Reply
        1. re: taos

          OK. I stand corrected on the certainty of a link to Alzheimer's and high cholesterol. I think it is a big part of the cause, but I accept that it has not been proven. One of the nice things about this board is the breadth of knowledge the users have. I always appreciate hearing a different informed viewpoint.

        2. Nice rant about Alzheimer's, but it seems to me you're replacing one myth with another. There are more factors involved in Alzheimer's than aluminum or cholesterol. That said, there is aluminum and then there is aluminum. What kind of aluminum are you talking about? Just plain old aluminum is a reactive metal. If you've ever smelled onions boiling in an aluminum pot, you will remember it for a long time after you throw the onions out. It also stains badly. Spreading heat well is not a fair trade off for those problems.

          Then there is anodized aluminum. The anodization process takes aluminum out of the reactive metal category. Expensive.

          Then there is the non-stick interior coated aluminum. I have a Farberware 8" nonstick aluminum omelette pan that costs ten bucks at Walmart. The nonstick finish scratches quite easily, so I replace it often. It's the only aluminum I cook in regularly. The big problem with aluminum in today's kitchens is that it will not work with induction cooking. Manufacturers have adapted stainless, but I haven't heard of anyone adapting aluminum.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Caroline1

            I was referring to the common plaint seen on this board that aluminum pans may cause Alzheimer's. I have also heard (not here, I don't think) that we should not use aluminum foil to wrap food because of the same thing. I think I mentioned before about the nutty old pharmacist telling me that antiperspirent could cause breast cancer. So, the belief that aluminum is harmful to us has been around at least since the late '60s. I don't know why. Do you?

            1. re: sueatmo

              Yes. I know why. There was a time when, in scientific and medical circles, there was enough circumstantial evidence to point a strong finger at aluminum being a POSSIBLE causative factor, so an investigation was undertaken to determine if and how much was true. The MEDIA announced the POSSIBLE link as if it was fact in big headlines, "ALUMINUM CAUSES ALZHEIMER'S!" The headline was not valid. The research was. And as with all media topics, the attention grabbing information was widely broadcast, the final result of the research was buried in the back pages. It's a common problem in the world we live in, and thus the rumor lives on among people who do not read the back pages. What do you read? '-)

              1. re: Caroline1

                It seems to me that I read a loooong time ago that elevated levels of aluminum were found in Alz. patients. I know I have also read that a link between aluminum and Alzheimer's has never been established. I don't remember where I read this. Probably the newspaper, or a women's magazine of some sort. As to what I read now, well I read anything I want.

          2. I'm curious- although they have a host of other health issues, alcoholics tend not to have issues with cholesterol. Does this mean that alcoholics, for the most part, don't get Alzheimer's?

            One would think that if there were a correlation, one could quickly see it from studying heavy drinkers.

            5 Replies
            1. re: scott123

              Alcoholics DO develop dementia. Alzheimer's is a form of dementia. Alzheimer's can ONLY be confirmed through brain biopsy or autopsy. Brain biopsy is not a fun thing, nor is it risk free, and it is extremely costly. What makes you think alcoholics are Alzheimer's free?

              1. re: Caroline1

                I'm not saying that alcoholics are Alzheimer's free, I'm saying that they should be alzheimers free if there truly is a connection between cholesterol and alzheimers- because alcoholics don't have cholesterol issues.

                And, I could be wrong about this, but can't Alzheimers be confirmed with an MRI?

                1. re: scott123

                  There does seem to be some credible research showing that alcoholics tend to have higher levels of HDL ("good cholesterol").

                  Here's one reference:

                  Of course they tend to have other health problems, including other cardiovascular problems that far outweigh any possible benefit from this.

                  I do not believe there is any research extending this to Alzheimers, though I'm pretty sure it's being studied.

                  Alzheimers cannot be confirmed with MRI, only with brain examination after death as far as I know. We have had several family members go through Azlheimers and dementia and getting a concrete diagnosis of either is not something that is done with one clinical test like an MRI or a CAT scan.

                  Recent advances in MRI exams can now reveal a greater likelihood that people with mild cognitive impairment will progress to Alzheimers, but that's not the same thing.

                2. re: Caroline1

                  While it is true that Alzheimer's can only be firmly diagnosed through brain biopsy or autopsy, you can get a diagnosis from a doctor. The diagnosis might be for dementia, instead of specifically for Alzheimer's, and it should include what functions the patient is unable to do. This diagnosis may be needed for tax purposes. Doctors use certain verbal tests, and gait observation to make the diagnosis. At least those are the tests I remember the doctor using. I think very early diagnosis is probably harder.

                  1. re: sueatmo

                    Yes,all that matches my understanding.