IS THERE A LINK BETWEEN ALZHEIMER'S AND ALUMINIUM?
MEDICAL GEOGRAPHER Harold Foster keeps his life aluminium-free
in an effort to ward off what millions of ageing Canadians dread:
the dementia of Alzheimer's Disease.
When it comes to this common place substance, he's a voice from
the far West Coast wilderness- publicizing his passionate belief
in aluminium concentrations as the chief culprit in Alzheimer's
while any link is played down by the Alzheimer's establishment.
"Obviously, I think that they're wrong, I think that the evidence
is overwhelming," says the professor of 33 years. who has a
Ph.D. in geography and specializes in identifying the causes of
"It is not a new idea. We've actually known that aluminium
is a neurotoxin for over 100 years."
So why isn't it recognized as such?
"It always gets down to the bottom line, right? One of the
major problems with our society is that we are too much concerned
with convenience. Anything that's convenient is acceptable. And
of course, aluminium is very convenient. And it's an enormous money
maker, employing large numbers of people."
Foster takes safeguards in keeping with his conviction: no aluminium
cookware, no pop or beer from aluminium cans, no foil wrap on leftovers,
no consumption of processed foods containing maltol, such as some
instant hot chocolate; no antacids without checking the ingredients
and most definitely no supermarket deodorant, which in his view
is equivalent to spreading a layer of aluminium under the armpits.
"I think we as a society are exposing ourselves more and more
to it. Anything that adds to the burden is not good news."
In an article with 250 footnotes recently published in the Journal
of Orthomolecular Medicine, an alternative publication, Foster cites
an Ontario study involving 668 autopsy-verified Alzheimer's brains,
showing an increased risk by a factor of 2.5 in people drinking
water with more than 100 micrograms of aluminium.
Foster says Alzheimer's is among the toughest diseases to investigate
because it can be proven only by autopsy.
"The reason (contact with aluminium) does not cause Alzheimer's
in everybody is that its toxicity varies with people's intake of
things like calcium and magnesium," says Foster. Aluminium
ingestion is bad news for those who are deficient in these two minerals.
He takes supplements of calcium and magnesium, as well as anti-oxidants
Vitamin E and C and breathes a sigh of relief that Victoria doesn't
filter its water, hence no added aluminium to the supply.
"The worst thing you can do is to use aluminium sulphate to
make the sediments settle out of the water." he says.
And for the first time, a federal-provincial committee has set the
upper limit on aluminium as 100 micrograms per litre based on short-circuiting
neurological toxicity, according to federal scientist Barry Thomas.
These are not called guidelines, but operational guidance values.
The final recommendations are due in 2001.
Victoria water has less than 65 micrograms per litre, reports the
Capital Regional District water department but Foster notes it is
naturally deficient in magnesium and calcium.
Dietary levels of elements formed by the minerals zinc, phosphorus,
calcium and magnesium greatly affect the absorption of aluminium
in the digestive tract and the metal's ability to cross the blood-brain
barrier, he says.
And when it gets to the brain, aluminium tends to replace these
minerals in hundreds of important enzymes and proteins, impairing
Alzheimer's is the end product of a series of malfunctioning enzymes
and novel compounds creating "cascades of biochemical dysfunction's"
which in turn cause degeneration of neurones, he says.
"Another thing that is making it much worse is that in processing
food, we tend to take out a lot of the magnesium, so that fast foods
and processed white bread are much lower in magnesium than (food)
our ancestors would get."
Foster does not discount genetic factors in Alzheimer's: "The
same enzymes that the
aluminium damages can be damaged automatically because of a genetic
Despite the increasing preponderance of aluminium in the environment,
Foster says that according to hair analysis, high levels can be
counteracted by increasing the intake of calcium and magnesium.
"In a year or so, maybe two years, you can gradually get rid
of the aluminium. by upping your calcium and magnesium."
Foster is used to swimming on the outer shores of the mainstream:
in the 1980's he advocated selenium supplements as protection against
cancer and recently, Harvard University researchers associated this
trace element with protection against prostate cancer. But they
stopped short of advocating supplements.
He also published an article on road salt as the most carcinogenic
toxin in Canada in the prestigious Journal of the National Cancer
Institute, and notes that now Ottawa is on the verge of curbing
road salt. But that decision, says Foster, is out of concern for
plant and animal health rather than human health.
Published in the Victoria Times Colonist, Tues, Oct 10, 2000
By Katherina Dedyna, Times Colonist Life writer