Aluminium Cooking Pots

Aluminium is one of the more common elements on this planet. Your body is constantly in contact with it, and has very efficient mechanisms for getting rid of it. It would be extremely startling if it turned out to be a hazard after so many millions of yea

The information below is transcribed with full acknowledgement, and with thanks, to Roger Caffin's Australian Bushwalking FAQ at; http://bushwalkingnsw.org.au/clubsites/FAQ/FAQ_Food.htm#Aluminium

Many years ago a published research paper suggested that aluminium was associated with Alzheimers disease. The link was never substantiated, and in fact subsequent studies have contradicted the original results. The original results were never reproduced, and the original source of the link was shown to be an artifact of the sample preparation technique used in the experiment. (ie, the researchers contaminated the samples themselves, accidentally.) The supposed link has no validity at all. But that has not stopped the mindless bandwagon enthusiasts from going into a fit over aluminium cooking gear. Search on Google and you will find lots of cooking web sites which tell you about the dangers of aluminium, in a most positive manner. Do any of them know what they are talking about? No, they are just parroting. It's all myth and rumour, and all false. It's yet another very typical urban myth.

For a start, aluminium is one of the more common elements on this planet. Your body is constantly in contact with it, and has very efficient mechanisms for getting rid of it. It would be extremely startling if it turned out to be a hazard after so many millions of years of contact. Aluminium is present in many common antacids, and no-one has ever indicted those. Aluminium is present in many anti-perspirants (not that they themselves are a good idea, mind you). An aluminium salt is used to treat drinking water to improve clarity. Enough! But if you want some references, herewith. You can find more via Google.

  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined that aluminum cooking utensils, aluminum foil, antiperspirants, antacids, and other aluminum products are generally safe. 
          Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (part of the CDC or Centre for Disease Control in America)
  • It has been claimed that, in Alzheimer's disease, the aluminium content in the nerve cells with tangles is higher than in adjacent, undamaged nerve-cells. Similar findings have been claimed for tangle-bearing cells present in a rare disease similar to Alzheimer's disease (the so-called ‘Guam’ disease). However, recent studies using a new and very powerful kind of analytical microscope (nuclear microscopy) have shown that the high levels of aluminium in tangles are actually caused by the way the cells were prepared when they were being examined. 
          It has been claimed that the brain content of aluminium is increased in Alzheimer’s disease. However, recent studies in which Alzheimer brains were carefully compared with normal brains failed to find any difference in the overall amount of aluminium. 
          Alzheimer’s Society Information Sheet of June 2002
  • Most foods contain some aluminium. Tea and some herbs and spices contain particularly high levels. Scientists think you probably absorb very little of the aluminium you take in from food. 'An average person has a daily intake of 7mg of aluminium. By far the greatest intake comes from food. But most is not retained and passes straight through the gut and is excreted. ... The aluminium added to most foods by cooking in uncoated aluminium pans is less than 0.1mg per 100 gram serving.' 
          Also from the Alzheimer’s Society.
  • Aluminium has not been shown to pose a health risk to healthy, nonoccupationally exposed humans. There is no evidence to support a primary causative role of aluminium in Alzheimer’s Disease. 
          Queensland Dept of Public Health, Public Health Guidance Note, March 2002

Finally, it should be noted that the latest crop of aluminium cooking pots do not present an aluminium surface to the food anyhow. These days the manufacturers use what is called a 'hard anodising' finish. This is a hard, dense version of the typical aluminium anodising we see on window frames. Good aluminium tent poles have a form of this too, and I know from experience that the surface is very hard to machine. I have to use a carbide tool on it instead of the more common High Speed Steel tooling used on most metals. So such good cooking pots are very reliable. However, the cheaper plain unanodised aluminium pots and billies will still corrode under acid foods such as tomatoes and apricots. They are OK for boiling water of course.