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Why I STILL Don’t Use Aluminum Foil (even though it probably doesn’t cause Alzheimer’s)

Why I STILL Dont Use Aluminum Foil

For years I understood that using aluminum in my cooking and personal products was going to increase my risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. I avoided it almost religiously with some exceptions and even made homemade deodorant even though I’m not normally a DIY personal products kind of girl.

I have to tell you – I was almost disappointed to find out that it’s probably not even a true correlation.

In a Facebook conversation a few months ago, I went down a rabbit trail of information and ended up here:

2014: Is the Aluminum Hypothesis Dead? – in the 1960s, researchers found that aluminum in the brains of rabbits caused something similar to dementia. Then another research team in the 70s found higher levels of aluminum in Alzheimer’s Disease patients’ brains. That launched the “Aluminum Hypothesis” that warned that there may be a correlation between aluminum and dementia/Alzheimer’s, but both studies were quickly called into question: The rabbits ended up not being a very good example and the aluminum-in-the-brain had no proof of cause, or effect. (In other words, Alzheimer’s patients’ brains could have been more likely to allow aluminum to accumulate because of the disease, not the other way around.)

The author set out to review other research articles to determine “whether or not there is sufficient empirical evidence for the proposition that aluminum causes Alzheimer’s Disease.” On the basis of some of the question above, inconsistency in findings, and questions of exposure and causation, the author determines that empirically, there is nowhere near enough evidence to say that aluminum is a causal factor in AD.

He then explores the reasons why the public still believes this so strongly, and it comes down to a 7th Day Adventist who single-handedly initiated the myth, and the commercial marketing of “aluminum-free” products ” to perpetuate it.

So Aluminum Causing Alzheimer’s is a Myth?

The Alzheimer’s Association lists aluminum as the number 4 myth about the disease,  and WebMD deems it simply “controversial” at best.

I was a little shocked to find out that most researchers (according to this one) didn’t put any stock in the Aluminum Hypothesis, and that, also according to this article, no one is really even looking into it anymore. I also am never one to want to fall prey to marketing to tell me what to buy; I’m deeply offended.

Grilling with aluminum foil - is it safe?

But then, of course, upon further investigation, I found these:

  • 2000: Study investigated the effect of aluminum in drinking water on Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and found that a high concentration may be a risk factor in AD.
  • 2008: Review of existing studies about aluminum (Al) and Alzheimer’s Disease from 1990-2005 found that “68% established a relation between Al and AD, 23.5% were inconclusive and 8.5% did not establish a relation between Al and AD.”
  • 2012: Aluminum foil DOES leach into food and is absorbed by our bodies, especially under heat and when the food is acidic or using spices. These chemical engineers begin with: “Minimal exposure of aluminum to our bodies is not a problem. Human bodies can excrete small amounts very efficiently; an aluminum tolerable daily intake of 1 mg/kg body weight /day has been established by the World Health Organization (WHO) of the United Nation (UN). But unfortunately due to many reasons, most of us get exposed to and ingest more than what our bodies can handle.” This source also explains that grilling with foil definitely causes little pieces to get straight into your food, and Ghada Bassioni, who did the research I just cited, says unequivocally in this HuffPo piece that cooking in aluminum foil “is above the permissible limit set by the World Health Organisation.”
  • Whereas my friend from the 2014 review thinks that because there is not conclusive evidence that aluminum is unsafe, we should keep using it and not really study it anymore, others believe that because of inconsistencies in research results, “the toxic effect of aluminum on human health cannot be ruled out either, and thus exposure to aluminum should be monitored and limited as far as possible.”

You can guess which perspective I agree with and make your own choice, of course.

But Aluminum is EVERYWHERE – How Does That Impact Our Health?

My favorite article is actually this one on Forbes, written by a random immunologist via Quora. Terrible sourcing, but a very comprehensive article! The author discusses many studies that I’ve already mentioned and ultimately comes to the conclusion that “there is little evidence that exposure to metallic Al, the Al oxides or its salts increases risk for AD, genetic damage or cancer.”

And he may be right, in spite of the minor reviews that seem to claim the opposite. His sources reviewed far more studies and far more rigorously than my sources above. But he also points out that one reason it’s difficult to obtain consistent results from research is that aluminum is the third most prevalent material on earth, thought to be the most abundant metal in the Earth’s crust.

And that’s my favorite part – this chart:

image

My chemical engineering friends shared that our amazing human bodies can excrete aluminum at a rate of 1 mg/kg of body weight per day. Now the figures on that chart are much lower than 1 mg (hooray!), BUT – if we add up all the daily sources listed, then throw in some aluminum for cooking that is not included, then account for what we don’t yet understand, then say, “But what if someone’s body doesn’t excrete that efficiently?” (And remember what Bassioni stated.) Well, the numbers are starting to get too questionable for me.

I err on the side of great caution when it comes to my health, but I am at least encouraged that our bodies are most likely taking care of this problem for us. However –

Use Safe Alternatives to Aluminum Foil

Why I STILL Dont Use Aluminum Foil

I still think using aluminum foil is irresponsible, and I probably won’t buy another roll for years. The reasons are pretty simple, and they won’t need any studies for it to make sense:

  • Aluminum is a non-renewable resourceThere is a finite amount of aluminum on the planet, and when we use it all up, that’s it. End of story. No more aluminum. That’s why it bugs me so much when people use it prolifically and toss it in the trash. There’s a lack of knowledge there.
  • The production of aluminum is very environmentally intensive.
  • Aluminum is very efficiently recyclable – almost 100% is reclaimed in the recycling process – but with foil, almost everyone just throws it away instead. Recycling plastic bags, for example, costs more than making new ones. Many other items generate a good bit of waste that cannot be remade into another item when they are recycled. When aluminum is recycled, however, almost 100% of the raw material can be made into another aluminum item, and it doesn’t cost more than the production using new aluminum. It’s a win-win situation to recycle your aluminum. (“Recycling of aluminum requires only 5% of the energy needed for primary extraction.” source)
  • Save money: Since you have to purchase aluminum (foil, for example), it’s worth your time to find an alternative or at least reuse it to save money, especially since you’re saving the earth at the same time.
  • And as always with me, if there’s a reusable alternative and even a question of human safety – why bother? Sure, scientists disproved this correlation (for now). But since aluminum is reactive (it can enter into the food we’re cooking in it), it might be causing our complex bodies some other problem we don’t yet understand.

I’ll still use aluminum foil once or twice a year for camping, because foil packets are a treat that deserves a little caution thrown to the wind. But I’ll never be one to deliver a plate of brownies covered in foil to a party or grab some to wrap leftovers or baked potatoes.

There are too many far safer and more responsible alternatives to foil for that.

Safe alternatives to grilling with foil packets

How to Avoid Using Aluminum Foil in the Kitchen:

  1. To bake potatoes: KS readers have plenty of ideas for reusable alternatives for foil when baking potatoes, from placing them on a cookie sheet or in a covered roasting dish to using parchment paper instead. See how I do it without fiol in the box below.
  2. To cover dishes in the oven: Simply use an inverted cookie sheet on top of a casserole dish when necessary. If you’re buying a new dish, look for one with a ceramic or glass lid that matches.
  3. Grilling vegetables: Some can go directly on the grill grates (cut them long) or at home we use a nice grill basket
  4. To line a messy pan for easy cleaning: A silpat (silicone mat) or parchment paper works just as well.
  5. To wrap fish: Many people find good luck with parchment paper; I simply pan fry fish.

At the very least, if you’re still using foil to bake potatoes or cover brownies, reuse it again and again until it falls apart.

Print
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No-Foil Baked Potatoes

  • Author: Katie Kimball
  • Prep Time: 5 mins
  • Cook Time: 60 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hour 5 mins
  • Category: side dish

Description

Want to avoid aluminum foil because of the negative health effects, budget savings or just to be kind to the earth? You don’t need it to bake potatoes.


Ingredients

  • As many whole potatoes as you like
  • (optional) olive oil
  • (optional) Real Salt (kosher is great)


ship kroger


Instructions

  1. Wash and scrub potatoes as usual (scrub hard, especially if they’re not organic! They are often on the Dirty Dozen Produce list).
  2. Cut out any eyes or green spots (not good for you!).
  3. While the potatoes are still wet, sprinkle some coarse salt on the outside (Kosher works well). You can optionally grease them with a little olive oil, but it’s not necessary.
  4. Make sure they’re either pricked with a fork or cut an “X” in the top skin. The cross-cut looks really snazzy and even more restaurant-presentable. (This step is really important, by the way. If the skins are intact, the potato can explode in your oven. This happens to me more than I’d like to admit! It makes a big mess! Here’s how I clean my oven without toxins or two hours of natural gas energy!)
  5. Arrange on a cookie sheet (non-aluminum, or use a silicone mat or parchment paper underneath) or glass casserole dish. You can also put them right on the rack and save dishes.
  6. Bake as usual (350-400 degrees for 45-60 minutes, until they give when you squish them).

Notes

Added bonus: The skins (almost completely) peel right off with this method, so you can easily make potato salad without having to bother with a veggie peeler.

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I always figure if it doesn’t take much time, energy, or funding, I should default to “playing it safe” when it comes to the chance of a major disease. Using less aluminum foil, covering my aluminum cookie sheets, switching out my baking powder and deodorant are all fairly simple steps, so I choose to avoid aluminum in these areas. I can’t avoid it everywhere, but I accept the Baby Steps!

Other diseases possibly linked to aluminum:
  • Breast Cancer
  • Bone damage/disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Stomach & Intestinal Ulcers
  • Gastrointestinal Disease & Stomach Aches
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Skin Problems
  • Hyperactivity
  • Mental Retardation in Infants
  • Learning Disorders in Children
  • Liver Disease
  • Headaches
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Colicky Pain
  • Lack of Energy
  • WiseGeek says there are few if any proven risks…always something contradictory!
Where do we find aluminum?

Here’s the list of places I’ve been paying attention to over the past year:

I’m surprised to find out that treated city water is one of our greatest sources of aluminum. That just makes my list of “Things I Need to Avoid in my Water” one item longer. Just one small part of the reason we use a Berkey water filter (chlorine and fluoride are two other reasons).

PLUS this incredibly daunting list:

  • soda cans
  • foil wrappers around chocolate bars
  • baking powder (conventional)
  • storebought crackers/quick breads/cookies/brownies, etc. (b/c they use the baking powder)
  • all sorts of frozen/refrigerated doughs
  • processed cheese
  • pre-grated cheeses, sometimes
  • aluminum water bottles
  • aluminum bottle tops (like twist caps)
  • antacids
  • antidiarrheal drugs
  • buffered aspirin
  • aluminum baby formula cans
  • conventional salt (as an anticaking agent)
  • douches
  • styptic pencils
  • eyeshadows/cosmetics
  • sunscreens
  • municipal water (treated with aluminum sulfate)
  • whitening toothpaste (aluminum oxide)
  • foil blister packs for medicines
  • foil lips on juice boxes/single serve milks
  • construction items used in and around the house like the gutters and flashing and eves
  • siding
  • some paints
  • lots of tools
  • umbrellas
  • lots of metal decorations (like metal photo frames or hanging mobiles)
  • self-rising flour (due to baking powder)
  • Aluminum silicate found in Kaopectate
  • Animal feed
  • Automotive parts
  • Automotive exhaust
  • Beer
  • Ceramics
  • Cigarette filters
  • Dental amalgams
  • Insulated wiring
  • Nasal spray
  • Medical compounds
  • Pesticides
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Vanilla powder

It’s estimated that people ingest 7-9 mg of aluminum each day in their food. Most city water has less than 1 g/L, and pots and pans aren’t going to leach very much aluminum. It’s hard to say how much aluminum one might ingest via their skin when it comes to antiperspirant. Possibly the scariest products include buffered aspirin at 10-20 mg per tablet and antacids, 100-200 mg per tablet. That seems like a major amount, and I don’t care if the info says we don’t take much of that into the bloodstream. If I don’t direly need an antacid, I’m not going to take one, that’s for sure.

How do you avoid aluminum? Do you think it’s worth it – and which reason??
Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

36 thoughts on “Why I STILL Don’t Use Aluminum Foil (even though it probably doesn’t cause Alzheimer’s)”

  1. whisperingsage

    “Aluminum is a non-renewable resource. There is a finite amount of aluminum on the planet,” and yet you also said ” aluminum is the third most prevalent material on earth,” now think, how can both of these be true? I learned from the good folks at soilminerals.com that aluminum is the most abundant mineral in the soil. But not to worry because neither the plants nor our guts absorb it too well. The most we get because it bypasses the whole alimentary system is vaccines, which have to have some adjuvant, designed to cause inflammation to rally the troops basically, or your white blood cells. Thimeridaol (50 mcg mercury) is still in flu shots, others have substituted aluminum, and that’s how it gets into us, the most efficiently.
    I can’t take any more shots as I have had too much vaccine damage, I don’t need anymore.

  2. Hi Katie.

    I have heard for years that aluminum is harmful to the body, and I think back in horror to those anodized aluminum tumblers seemingly everyone used to use when I was a kid, and those long handled ice cube trays! It seems to require a lot of thought to avoid it, silicone and unsafe plastics. I thought I was doing pretty well until I saw your daunting list! Stunning!!! And to think, the only reason I even saw your link was because I looked at the relationship between botulism and foil wrapped baked potatoes! I really appreciate your work. Instant Subscriber! Thank you!

    1. Carolyn @ Kitchen Stewardship

      So glad this was helpful Jean! I agree that it’s a bit daunting to see all the lists of things to avoid!

  3. Doina Popescu

    I need to make moussaka for 30 people…I am not in North America and have limited options to buy good products..I bought a big tray but is made of that light aluminum and I am afraid it will oxidate my eggplant…I feel that it would be safer to line the tray with parchment paper that I brought from home..
    Any advise will be greatly appreciated. Thank you

    1. Carolyn @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Doina, you can definitely line the pan with parchment paper to reduce exposure!

  4. Thank you for your great article! In the news today, I read about a study that found a strong link between aluminum and alzheimers.
    https://www.technologynetworks.com/neuroscience/news/aluminum-exposure-again-linked-to-alzheimers-disease-329670

    Best,
    Lea

  5. I often bake potatoes in the ash pan of my wood burner, what alternative to foil can I wrap the spud in? It needs to be heat/burn proof and able to protect the potato from ash.

    1. Carolyn @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Cate, Is the pan large enough that you could use a grill basket or small baking dish for the potatoes? That’s the only thing I can really think of or find online that might help in that situation.

  6. Margaret Moen

    I have a lot of heavy metal in my body and brain and I truly believe what all has been said about aluminum being bad for us. I have detoxed several times trying hard to get this stuff out of my body and brain. Besides aluminum there is mercury and these 2 toxins are in the shots they are giving to us and children – not so much mercury any more but there are still dentists that use it.

    1. I have a child that has never had shots and we don’t use aluminum cookware ( except for one Bakers sheet that we used to use occasionally) and seldom use tin foil. We did blood work and his aluminum level is 9.20 which is very high. 2.21 – 7.00 are considered an acceptable range by the medical field. We are baffled how this could ever have happened…. he is only 8 years old.
      We occasionally buy things in cans but mostly use home canned products. The olive oil we have used for years comes in a metal can, could this be the problem?

      1. Hi Jewel – scary! I don’t have the right background to answer your questions, but I’d say more importantly than where it came from (although that IS an important question to explore) is getting rid of it. I hope you can find someone who can help get his levels down! A functional medicine practitioner would be a good place to look if your regular family doc doesn’t have ideas.

        May your efforts be successful, and good for you to get him tested!!
        –Katie

      2. Michelle Smith

        That is quite a conundrum. As a mom Id be worried about this too. As an herbalism student Id suggest you look into Modified Citrus Pectin.

  7. Shalimar Crowe

    When my husband smokes something he uses foil to keep it warm until ready to eat. I wish he wouldn’t, so would love to hear an alternative for that. Also, we use the occasional foil when we go camping for those wonderful foil meals. I also have one other recipe from my mom that requires cooking an eye-round roast in foil on very low overnight. But we only cook that recipe 1-2 times per year. Any other way I cook that particular cut roast just is not any good. But again, would love to hear other alternatives. I still have a few aluminum pans, but cover it with parchment paper. I now know parchment paper may even be dangerous, but does it protect the aluminum from leaching into the food? Slowly replacing with stainless steel but that’s what I use for now.

    1. To keep food warm, use a pan with a lid, or put a plate or cookie sheet on top of the pan. If food is piled up above the top edge of the pan such that a lid would not work, get a second pan and divide the food.

    2. Shalimar,
      Ditto what Becca said, and I’m guessing a covered pan would work for the roast too – but we can’t worry toooo much about a few times a year. 😉 I know a lot of people who use parchment paper between the foil and food, but I have also heard it might not stop the leaching…so…I’m not sure who’s right yet. 🙁

      Best,
      Katie

  8. Judith Martinez

    Baked potatoes come out better unwrapped anyway so that solves that problem. I don’t really have any concerns about using aluminum foil and I would NEVER wrap a baked potato with it.

  9. What do you do to avoid the disposable pans that are so convenient to freeze doubled meals in, and to take to people who need meals?

    1. Good question – First, whenever I receive them, I try really hard to wash and re-use, since the most important goal is preserving natural resources. When I take meals to friends, I almost always bring soup, in glass spaghetti sauce jars, but that’s just me. When I have taken casseroles, I think I just took my own glass dishes and hoped I’d get them back. But I wouldn’t totally avoid aluminum to make it easier on a new mama – I really like to bring nothing that needs to be returned to simplify for them! For my own frozen meals I use dishes too, OR you can line a dish (hopefully with parchment paper, not aluminum, but I haven’t done it), then freeze the meal, then pull the food out of the dish and freeze it in a bag or wrapped and reclaim your dish. Kinda cool trick. 🙂 Katie

  10. Serene in Singapore

    I would err on the side of caution too coz I sometimes feel we rely on “science” too much to tell the truth. While I won’t go all out to never use it, I am like you in that I avoid it as much as I can but if I can’t I trust that the Good Lord will protect us 🙂

    Too much stress over what is healthy and not isn’t good for our bodies anyway. And “science” keeps changing its mind!

  11. Sarah Phillips

    Is the aluminum that baking pans are made of inconsequential? It doesn’t leach as much?

  12. In reference to the above article of 2014 “Is the Aluminum Hypotheses Dead?”
    I feel a correction is warrented. On page 22 the author states that the Golden Age was a publication of the Seventh-day Adventists. That is inaccurate as it was actually published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (now Jehovah’s Witnesses) and the person who’s articles were being published was of the Presbyterian faith.

  13. I found silicone mats to degenerate when I use them to on my oven shelves. Parchment paper doesn’t stay put there. Now I’m back to foil there (that’s the only place I use it, though..

    1. Why not use several large cookie sheets instead? I’d go for the stainless steel ones, personally.

  14. Very high levels of aluminum were recently found in all areas of brain samples from young autistic donors. I would guess that those levels are more likely the result of injected aluminum from vaccines, rather than from things like foil wrapped potatoes. However, like you I will be erring on the side of caution and trying my best to avoid ingesting aluminum, as well as injecting.

  15. I think you wrote out a nice post. Everything was going great until I got to the part about using a silicone mat instead of foil. I thought silicone was pretty toxic, especially when heated to high temps. Is that incorrect?

    1. Hi Mel,
      Thanks! There are some risks to silicone mats, yes, mostly when you cut on them, a definite no-no. Silicone is supposed to be insert (doesn’t leach or offgas) but it really is too early to know for sure. I use silicone farrr less than most people! The worst part is like Michelle said just above you, that even the unbleached parchment paper is silicone coated. Sigh…
      Katie

  16. Michelle Stepp

    It’s Seventh Day Adventist (not 7th) and I doubt it was a purposeful initiation of a myth. The health measage has always been an important part of our beliefs. And staying away from aluminum/foil as per your own and others research seems to not be such a bad idea. Secondly the long term safety of silicone has yet to be established. Even though it has been FDA approved and recognized as generally safe that is not trustworthy as it has also approved a host of dangerous things for our use including hydrogenated oils. Silicone is still a synthetic rubber which can off gas, sometimes oozes and can be filled with dangerous fibers. Those mats (still fairly new) as well as parchment paper (also covered in silicone as I understand it) are not researched enough for me to feel comfortable.

    1. Michelle,
      I hear you on the silicone – I’ve gone back and forth on that one for years (and I’m soooo bummed about the lining on the parchment paper! I had heard that too and it’s like we really can’t win!). The bit about the Seventh Day Adventist is really just part of the history – likely, we’re all in debt to the newsletters for getting important info out there! 🙂 Katie

  17. This doesn’t discuss the fact that that we’ve been told our body excretes aluminum for instance, like in vaccines, But they have now found it to be stored in the brain and to cause neurological problems. I guess I’d have to see someone addressing it from that point of view to believe this is a myth.

  18. Fish is delicious in the Instant Pot, although it doesn’t fare as well as some other foods when you use stackable cookware.

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