Aluminum, Autism, and Alzheimer’s?

Sep 7, 2023

The James Webb Telescope captured a giant red question mark in space, shown in the image above, fueling speculation that we live in a giant computer simulation like the Matrix.

Seriously. Or, rather, seriously?

Yes, seriously.

Aluminum foil hats, anyone?

Besides conspiracy theories, we have another specific reason to mention aluminum foil hats—because chronic exposure to aluminum (Al) and other heavy metals like copper, arsenic, cadmium, lithium, nickel, tin, lead, manganese, and mercury, is toxic to the brain (and other organs as well).

The blood-brain barrier, a border that regulates what can and cannot enter the central nervous system (CNS), is relatively highly permeable to metals and so they accumulate in the brain where they cause free radical stress, inflammation, and CNS dysfunction. This is not controversial.

Nevertheless, Al (Al as in aluminum, not AI or artificial intelligence) is specifically associated with two controversies. The first controversy relates to vaccines that use aluminum adjuvants (AlAd) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). A widely promulgated theory that links Al-containing adjuvants and ASD is highly tenuous, as serum levels of aluminum from Al adjuvants are well below the toxic range and so current evidence favors a rejection of an association between aluminum-containing vaccines and autism.

The second controversy relates to aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease. A well-recognized neurotoxin and the most abundant metal on Earth, Al has been found in the senile plaques and neurofibrillary tangles of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. However, no causal relation between aluminum exposure and Alzheimer’s has ever been established.

On the other hand, patients with aluminum overload from chronic kidney dialysis may develop dementia and other CNS toxicities.

So, in summary, how seriously should we take some online recommendations to reduce or even eliminate exposure to aluminum from pans, antacids, foil, dental amalgams, cigarette filters, certain foods like waffle mixes, non-dairy creamers, and vanilla powders and antiperspirants? Probably not too seriously considering that an intact gastrointestinal tract typically prevents more than 1% absorption of aluminum, and of the aluminum that enters the bloodstream, the kidneys excrete 99% of it.

But, in the end, no one including us knows for sure whether and how much to limit aluminum exposure, so in place of a definitive answer here again is this magnified image courtesy of the James Webb Space Telescope: