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Aluminum. It is the most abundant metal found naturally in the earth's crust. But new research published in the journal Frontiers in Neurology warns that constant exposure to it can lead to Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia, which typically lead to early death.
Pharmaceutical drugs, processed foods, tap water, antiperspirant deodorants and even infant formulas all contain aluminum, say researchers. And the extreme levels to which many people are being exposed in the modern age has triggered an epidemic of brain damage and early death.
Professor Christopher Exley of Keele University, who has studied the effects of aluminum extensively, found that these everyday exposures are a major contributor to Alzheimer's, the direct effect of the metal slowly accumulating in the brain and causing neuronal damage.
A professor of bioinorganic chemistry at Keele's Lennard-Jones Laboratories, Exley refers to today as the "aluminum age," noting that modern man is now exposed to aluminum through many sources. And even though the human body is capable of eliminating it, aluminum often accumulates faster than it can be expelled, leading to brain-related illnesses.
In his latest research, Exley describes aluminum as an "ecotoxin" that very few scientists are taking seriously. Citing earlier research on the metal, including some that he helped pioneer, Exley warns that aluminum causes the most damage over time rather than acutely, which is why many scientists remain complacent about it.
When certain toxicity thresholds are reached, typically when more aluminum is being ingested than naturally expelled, disease quickly begins to manifest. But the symptoms of aluminum toxicity can vary, which is partially why it gets overlooked when coming up with a diagnosis.
But evidence shows that, in cases of dementia, sufferers typically have greatly elevated levels of aluminum in their brains. This is due to the fact that aluminum can cross the blood-brain barrier when excessive levels of it are present within the body.
"The presence of aluminum in the human brain should be a red flag alerting us all to the potential dangers of the aluminum age," said Exley. "We are all accumulating a known neurotoxin in our brain from our conception to our death. Why do we treat this inevitability with almost total complacency?"
Further details about how aluminum accumulates in the body, and why it tends to gravitate towards brain tissue, can be found in the full text of the study:
Soy-based infant formulas found to contain exceptionally high amounts of aluminum
As previously mentioned, aluminum is everywhere these days. Some municipal water supplies add it in the form of aluminum sulphate to make drinking water appear clearer, and thus cleaner. Processed cookies and cakes often contain it as a raising agent as well.
Everything from food coloring, tea, cocoa, wine and sparkling beverages to toothpastes, sunscreens and various other cosmetics contain aluminum. Even popular pharmaceuticals like aspirin and antacids contain it as an additive, as do many childhood vaccines, typically in the form of thimerosal, which is roughly 50 percent ethylmercury by weight.
A lesser-known, but much more concerning, source of aluminum is soy-based infant formulas. According to the United Soybean Board, which advocates in favor of soy as a food additive, soy-based infant formulas contain high levels of aluminum because soybeans accumulate it from the soils in which they are grown.
"The [aluminum] content of a range of well known brands of infant formulas remains high and particularly so for a product designed for preterm infants," explains a 2010 study published in the journal BMC Pediatrics.