Aluminum is a nonessential metal to which humans are frequently exposed. Aluminum in the food supply comes from natural sources, water used in food preparation, food ingredients, and utensils used during food preparations. The amount of aluminum in the diet is small, compared with the amount of aluminum in antacids and some buffered analgesics. The healthy human body has effective barriers (skin, lungs, gastrointestinal tract) to reduce the systemic absorption of aluminum ingested from water, foods, drugs, and air. The small amount of aluminum (<1%) that is systemically absorbed is excreted principally in the urine and, to a lesser extent, in the feces. No reports of dietary aluminum toxicity to healthy individuals exist in the literature. Aluminum can be neurotoxic, when injected directly into the brains of animals and when accidentally introduced into human brains (by dialysis or shrapnel). A study from Canada reports cognitive and other neurological deficits among groups of workers occupationally exposed to dust containing high levels of aluminum. While the precise pathogenic role of aluminum in Alzheimer's disease (AD) remains to be defined, present data do not support a causative role for aluminum in AD. High intake of aluminum from antacid for gastrointestinal ailments has not been reported to cause any adverse effects and has not been correlated with neurotoxicity or AD. Foods and food ingredients are generally the major dietary sources of aluminum in the United States. Cooking in aluminum utensils often results in statistically significant, but relatively small, increases in aluminum content of food. Common aluminum-containing food ingredients are used mainly as preservatives, coloring agents, leavening agents, anticaking agents, etc. Safety evaluation and approval of these ingredients by the Food and Drug Administration indicate that these aluminum-containing compounds are safe for use in foods.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.