Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Aluminum and Human Health

A metallic ion that is widely distributed in water and soil. Drinking water often contains aluminum beyond levels leached from soil and clay because aluminum hydroxide is often added to municipal water supplies to clarify drinking water.
Aluminum is often added to food. Aluminum compounds make PROCESSED FOOD more creamy and pourable. They are quite versatile and are found in INFANT FORMULA, pickles, relishes, BEER, CREAM OF TARTAR, grated CHEESE, canned foods, BAKING POWDER, and self-rising FLOUR. Aluminum is also found in the medicine chest: A major source of aluminum is ANTACIDS (such as Maalox), which have a high aluminum hydroxide content. Antiperspirants, over-the-counter analgesics (pain relievers, such as buffered ASPIRIN for arthritis), and other pain medications contain aluminum. The average daily intake from all sources ranges from 10 to 100 mg. Most of this is not absorbed; of the fraction of aluminum that is absorbed by the body, most is subsequently excreted.
Although aluminum is not a heavy metal, accumulated evidence suggests that this substance may be harmful. Aluminum may cause dialysis dementia, SENILITY, and brain damage in young patients undergoing hemodialysis for kidney failure. Their increased aluminum intake is due to the use of antacids containing aluminum and to the elevated aluminum content of water used for dialysis. More generally, high levels of aluminum may inhibit phosphate uptake by the intestine and may increase CALCIUM losses by excretion by the kidneys. The imbalance may cause brittle bones and may disturb bone formation. Other evidence suggests that excessive aluminum impairs the body’s immunity.
Aluminum seems to accumulate in the brain with age, and high levels of aluminum are found in the brains of victims of ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE. Whether this is a cause or an effect of the disease is not known.
Patients with kidney disease and anyone regularly consuming antacids that contain aluminum compounds should be aware of the risks. Patients should avoid taking medications containing aluminum with orange juice (CITRIC ACID); this combination can dramatically increase aluminum uptake in the body. Acidic foods like TOMATO sauce, applesauce, and SAUERKRAUT should not be placed in aluminum foil or in uncoated aluminum cookware because these foods dissolve aluminum, which can then be absorbed.

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