kris ulland

Your Nutrition Partner

Aluminum is to your central nervous system what cigarette smoke is to your lungs. Scientific research shows that toxic metals damage brain tissue and lead to degenerative disease by producing oxidative stress.  Aluminum is one of the worst offenders. With Alzheimer’s rates skyrocketing, it is important to recognize where you may be getting exposure to too much aluminum. Just as with particles in the environment, once aluminum builds up in your tissues, your body has a difficult time releasing it. This toxic metal serves absolutely no biological purpose, so the less of it you ingest, the better.

Once in your body, aluminum travels around easily, unimpeded, piggybacking on your iron transport system. It crosses biological barriers that normally keep other types of toxins out, such as your blood-brain barrier. Over time, aluminum can accumulate in your brain and do serious damage your neurological health. Aluminum toxicity may be doing as much damage to children as to seniors.

The body is able to tolerate many metals like copper and iron in small amounts by clearing through the kidneys. If aluminum and lead are not taken out by the kidneys they are deposited in the brain.

Aluminum is a neurotoxin, with mounting evidence that chronic exposure is a factor in many neurological diseases, including dementia, autism, and Parkinson’s disease.

A new case study from Keele University in the UK  shows high levels of aluminum in the brain of an individual exposed to aluminum at work, who later died from Alzheimer’s disease. This case claims to be “the first direct link” between Alzheimer’s disease and elevated brain aluminum following occupational exposure.

The 66 year-old Caucasian man developed an aggressive form of early onset Alzheimer’s disease after eight years of occupational exposure to aluminum dust, which scientists conclude “suggests a prominent role for the olfactory system and lungs in the accumulation of aluminum in the brain.”

This is not the first time high aluminum levels have been found in the tissues of someone who died from Alzheimer’s disease. In 2004, high aluminum levels were found in the tissues of a British woman who died of early-onset Alzheimer’s. This was 16 years after an industrial accident dumped 20 metric tons of aluminum sulphate into her local drinking water. And there are many studies showing elevated aluminum levels in living individuals displaying a wide range of neurological symptoms.

Neuroscientist Christopher Shaw reports:

Many researchers are beginning to accept that aluminum has some sort of role to play in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Whether it does in others is still an open question, but Alzheimer’s is really coming into focus and it’s fairly clear that the body burden of aluminum from all the sources to which humans are exposed may be contributing to Alzheimer’s disease.”

Aluminum foil, or tin foil, is a paper-thin, shiny sheet of aluminum metal. It’s made by rolling large slabs of aluminum until they are less than 0.2 mm thick. It is used industrially for a variety of purposes, including packing, insulation and transportation. It’s also widely available in grocery stores for household use.

At home, people use aluminum foil for food storage, to cover baking surfaces and to wrap and protect more delicate foods, like vegetables, when grilling them. It is often used to line grill trays to keep things tidy and for scrubbing pans or grill grates to remove stubborn stains and residue.

Aluminum is one of the most abundant metals on earth. In its natural state, it is bound to other elements like phosphate and sulfate in soil, rocks and clay. It is also found in small amounts in the air and in your food. Rain washes aluminum particles out of the air and into our water supply, where they tend to accumulate rather than degrade. If you live in an industrial area, your exposure is undoubtedly higher than average.

Aluminum is naturally occurring in most foods, including fruits, vegetables, and grains. Some foods, such as tea leaves, mushrooms, spinach and radishes, are also more likely to absorb and accumulate aluminum than other foods. Some of the aluminum you eat comes from processed food additives, such as preservatives, coloring agents, anti-caking agents and thickeners. Commercially produced foods containing food additives may contain more aluminum than home-cooked foods.

The actual amount of aluminum present in the food you eat depends largely on the following factors:

  • Absorption: How readily a food absorbs and holds on to aluminum
  • Soil: The aluminum content of the soil the food was grown in
  • Packaging: If the food has been packaged and stored in aluminum packaging
  • Additives: Whether the food has had certain additives added during processing

Aluminum is also ingested through medications that have a high aluminum content, like antacids.

Generally, the small amount of aluminum you ingest daily is considered safe. However, studies show that aluminum foil, cooking utensils and containers can leach aluminum into your food.

This means that cooking with aluminum foil may increase the aluminum content of your diet. The amount of aluminum that passes into your food when cooking with aluminum foil is affected by a number of things, such as:

  • Temperature: Cooking at higher temperatures
  • Foods: Cooking with acidic foods, such as tomatoes, cabbage and rhubarb
  • Certain ingredients: Using salts and spices in your cooking

One study found that cooking red meat in aluminum foil could increase its aluminum content by between 89% and 378%  and poultry increased by 76% to 214%. Aluminum levels increased with higher cooking temperatures and longer cooking times.

It is impossible to completely remove aluminum from your diet, but you can work to minimize it.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have agreed that levels below 2 mg per 2.2 pounds body weight per week are unlikely to cause health problems.

According to CDC, the average adult in the US consumes about seven to nine mg of aluminum per day in food, and a lesser amount from air and water. Only about one percent of the aluminum you ingest orally gets absorbed into your body and the rest is moved out by your digestive tract, provided it’s functioning well.

The European Food Safety Authority uses a more conservative estimate of 1 mg per 2.2 pounds body weight per week.

Here are some steps you can take to minimize unnecessary exposure to aluminum when cooking:

  • Avoid high-heat cooking: Cook your foods at lower temperatures when possible.
  • Use less aluminum foil: Reduce your use of aluminum foil for cooking, especially if cooking with acidic foods, like tomatoes or lemons.
  • Use non-aluminum utensils: Use non-aluminum utensils to cook your food, such as glass or porcelain dishes and utensils.
  • Avoid mixing aluminum foil and acidic foods: Avoid exposing aluminum foil or cookware to acidic food, such as tomato sauce or rhubarb.

Red Yeast Rice

Red yeast rice is the product of yeast (Monascus purpureus) grown on white rice.  Red yeast rice extract is a substance that’s extracted from rice that’s been fermented with this yeast. It’s been used in China and other Asian countries for centuries as a traditional medicine. It’s also used as a food coloring, additive, and preservative.
Red yeast rice extract naturally contains several ingredients that may help control cholesterol levels. These include a number of monacolins, most importantly monacolin K. Monacolins are a group of species found in yeast.  It also contains sterols, isoflavones, and monounsaturated fatty acids.   As one of the top natural remedies for high cholesterol levels, red yeast rice is one of the few natural supplements that contain active ingredients virtually identical to those found in prescription cholesterol-lowering drug lovastatin (Altoprev).The potential benefits of red yeast rice include:

  • Improved Heart Health The monacolin K may help improve endothelial function, or the flexibility and adaptability of your blood vessels, which is key to maintaining your vascular and heart health.
  • Reduced Risk of Metabolic Syndrome  Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that increase your risk for chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.  Some of the criteria for metabolic syndrome include high blood pressure, excess body fat, increased blood sugar, and alterations in cholesterol or triglyceride levels.
  • Decreased Inflammation  Inflammation is a normal immune response designed to protect your body against acute infections and foreign invaders. Sustained inflammation is thought to contribute to chronic conditions like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Studies show that supplementing with red yeast rice may help reduce inflammation. A study in 50 people with metabolic syndrome showed that taking a supplement containing red yeast rice and olive extract for 8 weeks reduced levels of oxidative stress which is a key cause of chronic inflammation by up to 20 percent. One study found that giving red yeast extract to rats with kidney damage reduced levels of specific proteins involved in inflammation in the body.
  • Reduced Cancer Risk  Current research is limited to animal and test-tube studies, but some evidence suggests that red yeast rice may help reduce the growth and spread of cancer cells. One study found that giving mice with prostate cancer red yeast rice powder significantly decreased tumor volume compared with a control group.
  • High cholesterol (hyperlipidemia). Research shows that red yeast rice containing considerable amounts of monacolin K can lower your total blood cholesterol level, your low-density lipoprotein cholesterol level and your triglyceride level. Red yeast rice costs less than a statin and while the supplement is generally considered safe, it might carry the same potential side effects as statin cholesterol drugs. Lovastatin side effects include liver damage and muscle disease, or myopathy. All supplements with red yeast rice vary in amount of monacolin K so it is hard to regulate if you are taking it for cholesterol control.

Red yeast rice can cause mild side effects, including:

  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Heartburn
  • Gas
  • Headache
  • Dizziness

Don’t take red yeast rice if you’re pregnant, trying to become pregnant or breast-feeding.

Possible interactions include:

  • Alcohol. Don’t drink alcohol if you are taking red yeast rice. The combination might increase the risk of liver damage.
  • Cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune). Taking this immunosuppressive drug with red yeast rice might increase the risk of myopathy.
  • Cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP3A4) inhibitors. Taking red yeast rice with drugs, such as erythromycin, that inhibit this enzyme might increase the risk of harmful red yeast rice side effects.
  • Grapefruit. Drinking grapefruit juice and taking red yeast rice might increase the risk of the supplement’s harmful side effects.
  • Gemfibrozil (Lopid). Taking this cholesterol drug with red yeast rice might increase the risk of myopathy.
  • Hepatotoxic drugs, herbs and supplements. Red yeast rice might contain monacolin K, which can cause liver damage in some people. Taking red yeast rice with these types of drugs, herbs and supplements could increase the risk of liver damage.
  • Niacin. Taking red yeast rice with high-dose niacin might increase the risk of myopathy.
  • St. John’s wort. Taking this supplement with red yeast rice might reduce the effectiveness of red yeast rice.
  • Statin. Taking red yeast rice with other statins might increase the risk of harmful side effects.
Studies have shown that side effects of consuming red yeast rice are mild, like headaches, heartburn, and upset stomach. Side effects from prescription lovastatin include elevation of liver enzymes and muscle enzymes, muscle problems, and liver problems.
Red yeast rice has several potential downsides. The supplements are legally only allowed to contain trace amounts of monacolin K, but some may contain high amounts. 
Red yeast rice that’s not carefully cultivated can contain a byproduct called citrinin. Citrinin is a mycotoxin, or a toxin that is produced by certain types of mold.  Researchers have noted that it can cause kidney failure in animals and may affect gene expression in humans.
A 2011 assessment of 11 different red yeast rice supplements available for purchase noted that 4 of those products contained citrinin.
Consult your doctor before trying red yeast rice.

How to Buy

Buy red yeast rice paste or powder.  You can also find it in a supplement.

How to Store

Store in a glass container in a cool, dry place.

How to Cook

Red rice yeast is often used as natural food coloring, in fermented tofu,  red rice vinegar and all kinds of red, Chinese pastry.

You can cook red yeast rice like normal rice (1 cup rice : 1½-2 cups water, for 25 minutes). Powders can be mixed into smoothies.

Red Yeast Rice Tofu Steaks

Susan Siow

5 Steaks

Ingredients

  • 5 pieces fresh bean curd
  • 1 tbsp red yeast rice paste
  • 1/4 tsp five-spice powder
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Mix red yeast rice pate with five-spice powder, sugar and salt; stir well.
  2. Place the tofu in the marinade and marinate for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove and fry over medium heat until golden brown.
  4. Remove, drain and serve.

Resources

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