While aluminum is useful outside the human body, this element has no place inside it. Excess amounts of aluminum get stored in various organs such as the brain, and once it accumulates, aluminum can trigger mechanisms that can lead to serious illnesses or death. In fact, aluminum exposure has been linked to Alzheimer's disease for decades. In a recent study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, researchers from Keele University in the U.K. reported a novel way of detoxifying aluminum. They found that drinking silicon-rich mineral water can help rid the body of aluminum and may be beneficial for patients with Alzheimer's disease in the long run.
Aluminum is present in significant amounts in the air, water, and food, although the human body does not absorb most of it. Certain factors like competing minerals and parathyroid hormone levels affect the absorption of aluminum. However, ingestion of aluminum can lead to high amounts that exceed the body's capacity for excretion. Hence, stores of aluminum are sometimes found in different parts of the body, such as the bones, lungs, liver, heart, spleen, thyroid, brain, and muscles.
Numerous studies have investigated the effects of aluminum on the human brain. Accumulation of aluminum in brain cells not only interferes with nerve activity, it also causes cognitive decline via the formation of protein tangles in the brain -- an event commonly associated with Alzheimer's disease. Symptoms of aluminum toxicity in humans include:
A number of conditions are also associated with aluminum toxicity. These include:
Like aluminum, silicon is a naturally occurring element, but it doesn't cause toxicity and is present in certain foods. Bell peppers, soybeans, and asparagus, which are considered healthy foods, all contain silicon. Silicon can also be found in mineral water. (Related: Consuming silicon-rich water or foods can purge your body of up to 70% of the of aluminum in your bloodstream.)
According to Dr. Christopher Exley, a professor at Keele, the soluble silicon in mineral water passes through the intestinal walls and enters the bloodstream. There, it can combine with aluminum to form hydroxyaluminosilicate, a compound which the body finds much easier to excrete through urine than aluminum in its original form.
In their study, Exley and his colleagues hypothesized that silicon-rich mineral water can be used to reduce the body burden of aluminum in patients with Alzheimer's. To test their hypothesis, they recruited 15 patients along with their carers and partners, who served as the control group. They put the participants through 12 weeks of mineral water therapy.
The researchers found that daily consumption of one liter of silicon-rich mineral water facilitated the removal of aluminum through the urine in both the Alzheimer's group and the control group. Moreover, they observed clinically relevant improvements in at least three of the 15 Alzheimer's patients in terms of cognitive performance.
The researchers noted that while a more extensive study involving many individuals is needed, their preliminary findings suggested a plausible benefit of drinking silicon-rich mineral water for more efficient excretion of aluminum and possible improvements in cognitive function.