Almost all of us use aluminium foils to wrap food items these days. We even heat food wrapped in aluminium foil directly. Ever wondered what effect it can have on your health?
Water, food additives, and contamination by aluminium utensils and containers are the prime sources of our daily exposure to Aluminium through food supply. Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) in 2011 established a provisional tolerable weekly intake (PTWI) of 2 mg/kg body weight.1 It means that consumption of aluminium-containing food is safe if the total dietary exposure to Aluminium is below prescribed PTWI. However, we may be ingesting much more aluminium than our body can handle.2
A study on risk assessment of using aluminium foil in food preparation concluded that heating food in aluminium foil is a bad idea. Aluminium gets leached into the food from the foil in quantity far more than the WHO suggested safe daily intake. The contamination increases with increase in temperature and is dependent on the pH value of the food. More acidic the food (e.g. sour or spicy food), more contaminated (and harmful) it gets when heated in aluminium foil.3
Why Aluminium exposure is a bad thing?
Our body does not need aluminium as it is not an essential element for life and is regarded as a neurotoxin. There is a growing evidence of linkage of aluminium exposure with various neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease (AD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and Parkinsonism dementia.4 Studies have found that aluminium accumulates in brain cells and have detected high concentrations in AD patients.
High aluminium is also considered harmful to patients with bone disease or renal dialysis.5 A study has shown aluminium exposure to reduce human brain cell growth rate.6
What can we do to safeguard ourselves and our children?
Here are some simple tips to reduce our aluminium exposure:
- Avoid using aluminium foil altogether, use glass containers instead
- If you have no other option, use aluminium foil to wrap only cold food
- Avoid storing tomatoes, citrus or spicy fruits in aluminium foil as acidity increase the chances of aluminium contamination
- Never put hot food or heat it in aluminium foil
- Avoid using aluminium utensils
- JOINT FAO/WHO EXPERT COMMITTEE ON FOOD ADDITIVES, Seventy-fourth meeting, Rome, 14–23 June 2011
- Effect of Aluminum Leaching Process of Cooking Wares on Food, Int. J. Electrochem. Sci., 6 (2011) 222 – 230
- Risk Assessment of Using Aluminum Foil in Food Preparation, Int. J. Electrochem. Sci., 7 (2012) 4498 – 4509
- Shiraki H, Yase Y. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Parkinsonism-dementia in the Kii peninsula: comparison with the same disorders in Guam and with Alzheimer’s disease. Handbook of Clinical Neurology. 1991;15:273–300
- Comparison of the regional distribution of transferrin receptors and aluminium in the forebrain of chronic renal dialysis patients, J Neurol Sci. 1989 Dec;94(1-3):295-306
- Aluminum exposure: a study of an effect on cellular growth rate, Science of The Total Environment, Volume 278, Issues 1–3, 20 October 2001