Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the March 2017 edition of TTAC’s Heroes Against Cancer member newsletter.
If they had to suffer a modern scourge, most adults say they’d rather have cancer than Alzheimer’s.
Unlike cancer, there is no promise of a cure for Alzheimer’s, no treatment on the horizon, nothing mainstream medicine can offer to even slow its intrusion. It strikes unpredictably, silently crippling neurons, robbing its victims of their memories, shrinking their brains, their independence and judgment, erasing their personalities, and eventually claiming their lives. It is currently the sixth leading cause of death.
The disease, which afflicts more than five million Americans today and more than 40 million people globally, is expected to soar to more than 150 million by mid-century. As your age increases, so do your odds of being stricken. If you are fortunate enough to reach the ripe old age of 85, you will also have about a one in two chance of being demented by Alzheimer’s.
Public health agencies, doctors, and patient support groups say there is nothing you can do to prevent it. The greatest risk factors for getting Alzheimer’s that they identify are your age and your genes. But that message – that Alzheimer’s disease is just a bad lottery ticket – is in contrast to a growing body of evidence that points to a single environmental toxin as a primary culprit in some (if not most) Alzheimer’s cases.
Aluminum’s toxicity to the central nervous system is documented way back to the early 20th century, shortly after the metal began to be extracted from its stable natural form in the earth’s crust in the 1890s. Its association with Alzheimer’s is decades old and supported by hundreds of studies. But public health advocates, if they acknowledge the connection at all, downplay it as “unsubstantiated” or dismiss it as “myth.” However, evidence against the metal with a long rap sheet for brain toxicity just keeps piling up.
The latest research comes from the United Kingdom, and the lab of aluminum researchers at Keele University. Professor of bioinorganic chemistry Christopher Exley has been studying the effects of the metal in biological systems there for more than 30 years in fish gills, breast tissue, baby formula, mice, bumblebees, heroin addicts – and the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
For the current study, published in the Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology, Exley got hold of rare samples of brain tissue from 12 patients who had died from an uncommon “familial” form of Alzheimer’s that strikes people young – in their 30s and 40s as opposed to their 60s and 70s. These patients have genetic mutations associated with a protein called amyloid-beta, which has been heavily implicated in all forms of Alzheimer’s.
The Case of Auguste Deter and the Significance of “Familial” Alzheimer’s
This familial form of the disease may be rare, affecting only two to three percent of Alzheimer’s sufferers, but they are something like canaries in a coalmine. Understanding how these susceptible patients are affected is key to unlocking a whole spectrum of the disease.
The very first case of Alzheimer’s was one of these young patients. Her name was Auguste Deter. The wife of a railroad worker, she suffered memory loss and delusions that began in her late 40s, and couldn’t sleep at night, when she would often wail for hours. She was institutionalized in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1901 at age 51 where Alois Alzheimer was her doctor.
Dr. Alzheimer had observed this new condition in other patients recently, but in none as young as Auguste. After she died in 1906, he examined her brain and found the hallmark “senile plaques” and “neurofibrillary tangles” of the disease named for him.
Auguste’s brain slides were rediscovered recently, and in 2012 scientists reported in The Lancet that new analysis revealed she carried the PSEN1 gene mutation leaving her vulnerable to Alzheimer’s. Auguste was a medical curiosity at the turn of the last century, but today a half million Americans under age 65 have her disease.
In this latest study, aluminum was found in every brain sample tested, and at “extremely high” levels. “Overall, the concentrations were higher than all previous measurements of brain aluminum except cases of known aluminum-induced encephalopathy,” Exley reported.
The Kidney-Brain Connection
Since the 1970s, doctors have known that aluminum in tap water can cause kidney patients to acquire “dialysis-associated encephalopathy” (DAE). This is a brain disorder that can look like Alzheimer’s. In several hospitals worldwide, dialysis patients developed symptoms including speech impairment, tremors, memory loss, and delusional behavior, sometimes years after treatment. When they died, often within a few years of symptoms beginning, high levels of aluminum were found in their brains. As a result, water now used for dialysis is purified to exclude any trace of the metal.
DAE also stoked scientific interest in the connection of aluminum to Alzheimer’s. Research showed that aluminum disrupts the blood-brain barrier, kills neurons and glial cells, activates the brain’s immune system, and causes brain inflammation; increases oxidative stress, damages mitochondria – the energy powerhouses in every cell of the body – and alters gene expression. It’s been suspected in a host of other nervous system diseases including autism, ALS, and Parkinson’s.
In the early 1990s, scientists established that aluminum is linked to redistribution of proteins related to the “tangles” in the brains of both Alzheimer’s and dialysis patients. They determined that aluminum binds to amyloid-beta and that only a tiny amount of the metal disrupts its normal configuration, causing it to form beta-pleated sheets. These findings were confirmed by a decade of research, and beta-sheets, in turn, were shown to be impervious to normal degradation and related to neurotoxicity in vitro.
Aluminum’s ability to increase amyloid-beta neurotoxicity was demonstrated in a 2002 study which showed that transgenic mice fed a diet high in aluminum developed increased amyloid-beta levels and plaque deposits. Through these studies and dozens more, the Aluminium-Amyloid Cascade Hypothesis for Alzheimer’s gradually crystallized.
Unanswered Questions About Aluminum in Water and Alzheimer’s
The theory fell out of fashion in the 1990s, but not because it had been disproved. Some epidemiology studies found a link between water aluminum levels and Alzheimer’s rates, and some didn’t. But that was hardly refutation; many aluminum exposures wouldn’t be controlled in that sort of study and epidemiology without controls is very weak science.
Some scientists also doubted the data on aluminum content in Alzheimer’s brains, while others disagreed about whether aluminum-induced changes in lab animals’ brains were the same as those in humans. These objections raised many questions, but didn’t answer any.
A 2011 review in the International Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease disputes each of these old criticisms and says new evidence of the role of aluminum and other metals in Alzheimer’s has emerged. New technology is available to answer the questions.
It cites a 2009 study in which Japanese researchers combined X-ray spectroscopy and transmission electron microscopy to clearly show that aluminum is at the core of senile plaques of amyloid-beta. The fluorescence microscopy used by Exley’s team in the UK is not in doubt and provides stunning and unequivocal images of aluminum in brain tissue of Alzheimer’s patients.
Aluminum’s Growing Rap Sheet
Hundreds of aluminum studies have been published in recent years, and not a single one has illustrated a benefit of aluminum inside any living creature. Rather, it’s been demonstrated to hamper more than 200 vital biological processes in plants, animals, and humans, and evidence of its toxicity just keeps accumulating:
- Red, toxic aluminum sludge spilled from production plants recently in Hungary and Brazil, killing dozens of people, injuring hundreds more, and destroying vital ecosystems for decades to come – or perhaps permanently.
- A large emerging body of evidence, and a 2015 medical textbook called Vaccines and Autoimmunity document how aluminum in vaccines can induce chronic immune inflammation, and a host of neurological and autoimmune diseases such as Guillain-Barré syndrome and multiple sclerosis.
- A growing literature shows that aluminum in vaccines can provoke unwanted immune system activation linked to CNS disorders, skin reactions, and allergies.
- Waste from aluminum production has been demonstrated to induce cancer-causing mutations.
- A 2016 study of 10,567 individuals found that those with chronic aluminum exposure had a 71% increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
- A study from Switzerland published in the International Journal of Cancer in December provides the first experimental evidence that aluminum induces breast cancer in mice, adding to long list of research linking aluminum in deodorants to the disease.
- French researchers established that ingested aluminum – an unavoidable ingredient in the modern heavily-packaged and processed diet – damages the gut lining and is a likely contributor to Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
- Images taken by researchers in 2014 clearly show that the sperm of men seeking fertility help at an IVF clinic is heavily loaded with the metal.
Very new studies hint at the mechanisms of aluminum’s injury: A 2016 study published in Scientific Reports demonstrated how aluminum commonly added to vaccines can be cytotoxic in two ways. First, at the injection site. Second, other forms of aluminum added to vaccines as adjuvants to stimulate the immune system have been proven to migrate from where it is injected in muscle to distant sites in the lymph nodes, spleen, and brain, where it settles long after injection.
This “slow brain translocation” via a Trojan horse mechanism has been used to explain a well-documented new encephalitic/chronic fatigue disorder called Macrophagic Myofasccitis that may follow intramuscular vaccination with aluminum adjuvants.
We’re Living in The Age of Aluminum
These last observations are especially worrying. When Auguste Deter was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, aluminum had only just been unleashed by industry. Production was at a mere 450 million tons annually in 1895.
Today, aluminum is the most predominant structural metal in use. About 50 billion tons are produced annually, and that is expected to rise to 80 billion by 2023.
But its use architecturally is probably the least of our health worries. Aluminum may be in your water if your municipality adds it to the treatment process.
It’s in food (preservatives, colorants, caking agents, baking powders, self-rising flour, and as a contaminant from foils, cans, pouches, and from cooking with aluminum pots and pans). It’s even in baby formula.
But it is also a primary component of many vaccines where it serves as an adjuvant to artificially activate the immune system. This delivery system bypasses the usual protective and excretory mechanisms of the gut, explains kidney specialist Suzanne Humphries, and is especially dangerous to babies.
As the authors of a 2013 study into the action of aluminum concluded:
Continuously escalating doses of this poorly biodegradable adjuvant in the population may become insidiously unsafe, especially in the case of over-immunization or immature/altered blood brain barrier…
Vaccine Doses Have Been Steadily Rising
But that is exactly what is happening. Before Congress shielded vaccine manufacturers from liability over vaccine injury in 1986, only the DTP (now DTaP) vaccine contained aluminum as an adjuvant. Children born before 1985 would have received somewhere between 250 mcg and 1,000 mcg of aluminum, depending on their individual doctor, since there was no mandated schedule.
With lawsuits over injury removed from their equation, manufacturers used the troublesome but efficient aluminum adjuvant more and more. In the Winter 2016 issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, researcher Neil Miller shows that babies have aluminum injected in pneumococcal, hepatitis, DTaP, and other vaccines and their exposure to the toxic metal from this source has climbed from 3,925 micrograms (mcg) pre-2000 to 4,925 mcg today.
Additionally, since the CDC recommended that pregnant women receive an aluminum-containing pertussis vaccine in 2011, and since aluminum crosses the placenta and accumulates in fetal tissue, millions of babies are receiving more of the metal than they ever would have been exposed to naturally.
Miller also notes that while doctors are very careful about the amounts of aluminum they allow premature babies to be exposed to in their food intravenously because of the known toxicity, a single hepatitis B vaccine given at birth contains 250 mcg of aluminum – 20 times higher than permitted safety levels. “Babies weigh about 12 pounds at two months of age when they are injected with 1,225 mcg of aluminum from their CDC-recommended vaccines,” adds Miller, “50 times higher than safety levels for preemies.”
Why Haven’t Health Authorities Reacted?
You may think “Surely health authorities see this obvious problem?” They do. Miller cites transcripts showing that vaccine safety regulators knew damning evidence about aluminum in vaccines for years – discussing its health dangers and neurotoxicity as far back at least as a meeting in 2000.
Dr. John Clements, currently a developer of a “band-aid” vaccine for ear infections and vaccines against plague and anthrax, was with the World Health Organization’s Expanded Programme on Immunization at the time when he attended the meeting and summed up the disincentive to address safety: “There are not easy and obvious substitutes to aluminum adjuvants,” he said. “The existing vaccines, if they change the adjuvant for any reason, would need to be resubmitted for clinical trials for safety and efficacy, and it would take a great deal of time to do that.”
He went on to add, “Aluminum is not perceived, I believe, by the public as a dangerous metal. Therefore, we are in a much more comfortable wicket in terms of defending its presence in vaccines.” Clements had captured the prevailing public health attitude: What the public doesn’t know, doesn’t matter.
The Camelford Disaster of 1988
Long before any of this aluminum research had begun, villagers in picturesque Camelford in Cornwall, England, became unwitting subjects in a large human aluminum experiment back in 1998. A truck driver who was new to his job mistakenly deposited a 20-ton delivery of aluminum sulfate into their household water supply instead of a reservoir tank.
Aluminium is commonly used to clarify water, but the doses the Camelford villagers received when they turned on their faucets is estimated to have been 500 to 3,000 times the maximum accepted European Union level.
Residents noticed the effects within minutes. The cloudy, sticky water was acidic; it burned children in their baths, blistered skin, caused hands and lips to stick together, turned fingernails blue and hair green, induced stomach cramps and diarrhea, and caused joint pain.
The water authority waited a full 16 days to inform the villagers (by newspaper ad) about the accidental water poisoning – the worst in British history. And in the quarter century that followed, several of the exposed residents became ill. They had documented cognitive impairment, tested for high blood aluminum levels, and many developed dementia symptoms and early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
An inquest in 2014 heard that post-mortem examination of the brains of several of these residents revealed extraordinarily high aluminum content. Carole Cross, who died at age 58 after suffering for years of failing memory, and Richard Gibbons, who was diagnosed with epilepsy and developed bloody stools, skin rashes, ulcers, and died at age 60, both had levels of aluminum far beyond those found in the brains of non-exposed individuals.
Michael Rose, a coroner hearing evidence of the case in 2014, fell short of saying that aluminum caused Gibbons’ dementia, though it was clear he believed it did. Science is “on the edge” of proving a clear causal connection, he said, and it is only a matter of time before it does, in the same way that asbestos took time to be linked to cancer. “Somebody will, in 20, 30, or 40 years, be able to solve the problem immediately.”
Twenty to 40 years is a long time to wait in the current Alzheimer’s epidemic. And most patient advocacy groups seem to be in no hurry to solve the problem. Alzheimer’s Disease International, “The Global Voice on Dementia,” makes no mention of aluminum at all: a search for the term on its website yields zero results.
The Alzheimer’s Association dismisses the aluminum connection as a “myth” – and presents it as an outdated idea, thoroughly explored way back in the 60s and 70s.
“Since then,” the association says, “studies have failed to confirm any role for aluminum in causing Alzheimer’s. Almost all scientists today focus on other areas of research, and few experts believe that everyday sources of aluminum pose any threat.” It sounds like it’s echoing a 2014 review claiming the “Aluminum Hypothesis Dead” by unknown researcher Theodore Lidsky, a paid consultant to the International Aluminium Institute.
Contrast the association’s statement to the remarks of British aluminum scientist Exley, who describes the latest findings on aluminum as “unequivocal in their confirmation of a role for aluminium in some if not all Alzheimer’s disease.”
“I don’t believe that is the only factor, but I think it is an important one which should be considered very seriously,” he adds. “At the very least, these new results should encourage everyone, and even those who have steadfastly maintained that aluminium has no role in the disease, to think again.” Put into the context of what is already known about aluminium and Alzheimer’s disease, he says, the significance of the latest study findings is “overwhelming and compelling.”
It doesn’t seem to care about helping those with the devastating disease. The Aluminum Association offers vacuous advice about “healthy eating” and “gentle exercise” while failing to tell patients about published data showing that drinking 1.5 L (around 50 ounces) of silica-rich mineral water an hour before 30-minute workouts increases aluminum excretion in sweat up to 10-fold. Or that Alzheimer’s patients who drank just one liter of mineral water with high aqueous silica content, such as Fiji or Volvic and Spritzer, augmented urine excretion of aluminum without compromising the levels of other essential metals including iron and copper. And that after just three months of doing this, three of 15 patients showed cognitive improvements.
That may not sound very impressive, but considering where pharmaceutical industry treatments for Alzheimer’s are, these water results are profound.
Drug Companies Failing in Quest for Effective Alzheimer’s Treatment
In late 2016, Eli Lilly & Co’s plummeting stocks reverberated throughout the industry after it announced its latest experimental Alzheimer’s drug to try to stop the build-up of beta amyloid had failed.
That announcement came on the heels of Pfizer Inc., Johnson & Johnson, and their partner Elan Corp.’s revelation that their highly anticipated experimental Alzheimer’s drug called bapineuzumab was clinically insignificant and that studies confirmed the drug’s lack of efficacy.
“I think it’s time to diversify our approaches, or otherwise 10 years from now, we’ll have the same result,” neurocognitive scientist Murali Doraiswamy from Duke University recently lamented to the Wall Street Journal.
But diversification doesn’t sound hopeful either, when one of the most promising new avenues of exploration is an Alzheimer’s vaccine – adjuvanted with aluminum hydroxide.
Why Aren’t Patient Advisory Groups Speaking Out?
It also raises some troubling questions about so-called patient advocacy organizations. Where do groups like the Alzheimer’s Association, which studiously denies all of this overwhelming science, get their funding? A large percentage comes from pharmaceutical companies, of course. Does it take its directives from its pharma donors? From the $186 billion aluminum industry? From the negligent public health authorities trying to keep us all in the dark about vaccine dangers?
Today, Alzheimer’s disease is mocking mainstream medicine and public health. They spend $3 billion a year on drugs that try to mitigate the symptoms of the devastating disorder but admit that treatments for it haven’t really improved since Auguste’s Deter’s day. Isn’t it time we told them where we want them to look?
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The message that Alzheimer’s is not preventable contrasts with evidence pointing to aluminum as a culprit.
Researchers have found high levels of aluminum in the brains of deceased Alzheimer’s patients.
Research shows that aluminum disrupts the blood-brain barrier, damages mitochondria, and alters gene expression.
Exposure to aluminum has increased drastically over the last half century.
Health officials and advocacy groups have denied or ignored evidence linking aluminum toxicity to Alzheimer’s.
Drug companies continue to develop treatment of Alzheimer’s symptoms rather than study the role aluminum plays in causing the disease.