Is aluminium found in drinking water linked to Alzheimer’s Disease?

Written by William Fryer - MA Oxon

There is a lot of chatter on the Internet about a link between aluminium found in drinking water and Alzheimer’s disease. In this article, we will examine the evidence.

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia.

It affects 1 in 14 people over the age of 65. It starts with memory loss and ends with death. It is a terrifying and destructive illness that affects more than simply the sufferer as friends and family bear the brunt of the side effects. And there is concern that aluminium may be associated with Alzheimer’s.

Why people are worried Alzheimer’s is linked to drinking tap water?

There are lots of metals that are used by your body - for example, iron, potassium, zinc, copper, sodium and magnesium. At the moment, there is no evidence to suggest that aluminium causes Alzheimer’s but there is some evidence to suggest a link to the progression and development of the disease. In fact, no one knows exactly what causes Alzheimer’s.

Metals like aluminium and lead are not used by the body and in small amounts can be removed by the kidneys. However, when larger quantities are ingested, these can end up being deposited in the brain with potential neurological effects. Lead is well-known to affect the brain development of children, for example.

Alzheimer's is associated with the build-up of amyloid plaques and Tau proteins in the brain. Iron, zinc and copper are associated with the development of these plaques and proteins but zinc is also shown to reduce their toxic effects.

In the 1960s, Laboratory experiments on animals injected with high levels of aluminium did develop toxic tangles of tau proteins in their brains, leading to speculation that aluminium from cooking utensils or water sources could do the same.

These studies used extremely high levels of aluminium and no subsequent studies have confirmed that aluminium is associated with the development of Alzheimer’s.

When ingested, most aluminium is excreted by the kidneys although some can make its way into the brain. And one recent study did find that a high dose of aluminium in drinking water did contribute to the progression of the disease, however, multiple other studies have failed to find a link.

To date, drug trials of medications designed to remove metals from the brain have had some success at removing metals and improving patient brain function, however, they have all experienced significant adverse side effects.

In summary

Aluminium may well be associated with the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in existing sufferers, there is, as yet, no causal link. Research is ongoing, there are no treatments available to remove aluminium or other metals from the brain. Zinc may have a role in reducing the effects of Alzheimer’s. A water distiller removes all metals from drinking water.

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