Cookware is for cooking, right? And as long as your food gets cooked, what does it matter whether you’ve used an iron pan or a scratched Teflon pan?
It might matter much more than you’ve believed. A growing body of research evidence appears to point to a strong link between aluminium accumulation in the body and Alzheimer’s disease – a disabling loss of mental ability that is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States and the 5th leading cause of death among those age 65 and older and also cause of disability and poor health. As per statistics in 2017, more than 5.5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s, an approximately 5.3 million are age 65 and older and estimated 200,000 peoples are below age 65 and have younger-onset Alzheimer’s. Almost 2/3 of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women.
Is this cause for worry?
We believe it’s time to start taking precautions:
Rita Hayworth, not so long ago, made Alzheimer’s a household word. A disease that usually occurs at 50 and over, Alzheimer’s is characterized by severe forgetfulness initially, leading to a gradual waning of the ability for abstract thinking (including the ability to perform simple calculations, exercise judgement and solve everyday problems.) The person finally becomes severely disoriented to time, person and place. Post-mortems show the brain to be highly shrunken, the brain chambers to be abnormally dilated and a marked reduction in the number of brain cells.
To date, there is no sure care for Alzheimer’s. Nor do scientists agree on what causes it, though there are several theories, and research is going on apace to identify the culprits.
It was way back in the mid-1970s that researchers first noted higher-than-normal levels of aluminium in the brains of Alzheimer’s victims. The question raised by this discovery was whether this excess aluminium caused the Alzheimer’s or the aluminium accumulation was a result of the disease process.
It’s a big question. Aluminium, it turns out, is a major player in our lives. It’s the third most common element on earth.
Aluminium, like other materials is present in all our bodies, though there’s no evidence that it’s an essential mineral. We all consume aluminium every day. A small amount of that consumption is due to aluminium that occurs naturally in some foods. But most of our aluminium intake occurs because someone, somewhere, added that aluminium to our food, drink, water, medicine or cosmetics.
And in our kitchens, aluminium pots and pans are widely used in cooking: being cheaper, lighter and easily available, they are preferred by a majority of the population.
But the aluminium in your cookware doesn’t stay there. Aluminium is highly prone to pitting corrosion, a localized form of corrosion that occurs due to small impurities in the metal. Says Dr. K.R. Satyanarayan, Head of the department of metallurgy, College of Engineering, Pune, India, “Even anodized aluminium vessels, i.e. those coated with a protective oxide that increases corrosion resistance, are not completely safe: the protective layer wears off with time, and there is no obvious indication to a lay person that this has happened.”
The risk of corrosion increases when food is cooked in aluminium vessels over a long time, and over high temperature. The greatest amount of leaching (of aluminium into the food) occurs when acidic food is cooked in aluminium vessels or stored in them. Try the acid test at home and you’ll believe!
“Try this at home: Want to see some dramatic evidence of the effect of acid foods on aluminium? Line a container with aluminium foil, place some leftover tomato sauce in it, cover with foil so it touches the food, and leave it in the refrigerator for a week or two. When you take it out, you will probably find holes in the foil where the aluminium has been dissolved by the salt and acid in the food.”
Nor is Teflon-coated (non-stick) cookware an automatically safer option. The coating is a layer of PTFE (polytetrafluorethylene), a polymeric material that is highly corrosion-resistant. But when the coating wears off, the underlying aluminium layer is exposed, and the pan becomes prone to all the effects of aluminium leaching.
What exactly are these effects? The Scientists have reported laboratory studies that have shown that aluminium binds to the body’s chemical energy, ATP (adenosine tri phosphate) and could thus interfere with the body’s energy storage system.
How Aluminium works? Dr. Theodore Kruck, Ph.D., member of a leading team of aluminium-investigating scientists at the University of Toronto, offers his explanation of how aluminium damages nerve cells in the brain, based on research he and his colleagues have conducted:
“All living cells must perform ‘house-keeping’ to maintain their normal functions. To do this, they read ‘recipes,’ which are stored in the DNA molecules of their chromosomes. When we extracted the active chromatin (the chemical that contains the DNA molecules in our cells) from the brain cells of Alzheimer’s patients, we found aluminium levels in the chromatin that were nine times the normal levels. We believe that this aluminium reacts with the chromatin and makes it ‘sticky,’ and this prevents the cell from maintaining itself. It’s as if someone put glue on some of the pages in the recipe book. If enough pages get stuck, the cell can’t get the information necessary for its maintenance and it will slowly die.”
Dr. Kruck says, “We have progressed to the point where we now have a smoking gun (aluminium) lying beside a dead body (the Alzheimer’s victim). Although we still can’t prove conclusively that the bullet came from that gun, we now believe there is very strong circumstantial evidence that aluminium is the murder weapon.” Let’s look at some of the evidence against the metallic defendant:
Aluminium’s Toxic Litany. Several independent lines of investigation have clearly established that aluminium can be highly toxic to our nervous system:
Animal experiments show that injections of aluminium into the brains of cats (animals often used in such experiments because of their tissue’s close resemblance to the human variety) will produce memory loss and other behaviours similar to Alzheimer’s. And the damage to the cat’s brain cells is in the same parts of the brain as in human victims of Alzheimer’s. Experiments with rabbits show similar results.
People with kidney failure, can develop “dialysis dementia” – a condition resembling the symptoms displayed by Alzheimer’s victims – when aluminium from the water used in the dialysis treatment accumulates in their brains.
Natives of certain regions in Guam and Japan (where there are high levels of aluminium in the soil and water) suffer from an increased frequency of neurological diseases in which their brains develop aluminium-containing lesions similar to those in Alzheimer’s victims.
The excess aluminium in the brains of Alzheimer’s victims isn’t found throughout the organ. The aluminium build-up is in the exact same brain cells that are physically damaged by the disease.
The only way to make a 100 per cent certain diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is to examine the brain after death to confirm the presence of nerve fibre “plaques” and “tangles” in the brain cells. Although aluminium occurs naturally in the brain, in Alzheimer’s-diseased brains aluminium levels are elevated where these plaques and tangles are found.
Dr. Kruck and his colleagues feel that, while they are still far from having all the answers, the mounting evidence against aluminium justifies some recommendation.
How the risks from aluminium cookware may be minimized?
If an aluminium vessel is to be used for cooking, make sure it’s anodized aluminium – but not an old anodized vessel where the protective layer might have worn off.
Never use a high flame when cooking in aluminium. Aluminium is a soft metal; therefore higher temperatures cause greater leaching. The risk is less when water-based food is cooked, in which the temperature does not rise above the maximum of 100 degree C, than if dry cooking like roasting is done, when the temperature rises higher.
As far as possible use a wooden spoon to stir food being cooked in aluminium vessels; the abrasive action of metal spoons or forks will get the aluminium off the vessel and into your food.
Don’t cook acidic foods in aluminium – the risk of leaching multiplies greatly.
Salt also reacts with aluminium, so transfer cooked food into a stainless steel container before adding salt. (That goes for vinegar too).
Avoid boiling tea or coffee for long hours in aluminium kettles. American researchers have found 30 times the recommended WHO limits of aluminium in kettles in which water has been boiled for long periods.
Avoid storing cooked food in aluminium vessels or in aluminium foil, especially acidic food.
Avoid scouring soiled aluminium vessels with an abrasive sponge. Instead, use a soft sponge and warm soapy water. It is best to discard very badly burnt vessels.
As a better option consider cast-iron sizzler pans. Made out of an iron-zinc alloy, these pans retain heat and, like non-stick pans, require very little oil. They can be used instead of non-stick pans to make anything from omelettes to dosas. Also available are iron pans, which are ideal for making all kinds of foods. (The iron you may ingest from these pans will probably be beneficial to you, considering those who are iron-deficient).
If you have a malfunctioning kidney, you need to be particularly careful about aluminium ingestion: the kidney is one of the body’s prime mechanisms for controlling and guarding against overload of any metal.
Children, particularly infants, are similarly susceptible, because of their immature controlling mechanisms. Don’t go overboard with tinned milk powder which comes in aluminium containers.
We ‘humans’ have got the life a billion years ago. There have been five mass extinctions in earth’s history. We are living through the sixth. And now we too are running at a pace to end it all. This time it will be our fault.
The new discoveries and inventions have made our lifestyle full of convenience. But our bodies require work. Just like the sedentary water starts smelling, the sedentary lifestyle has given rise to many chronic diseases like the heart problems, diabetes and hypertension.
Today, the health researchers are suggesting that most of the chronic diseases that have appeared in man’s life are due to STRESS. From where it has come. It is the bi-product of our so-called modern lifestyle.
We are standing at the edge of cliff. Immediate actions are required to bring back the healthy days. We must incorporate exercise, balanced diet, sound sleep, and the most importantly happy and positive thoughts to our lifestyle to get rid of all health problems.