Is aluminum cookware safe? Here’s what you need to know.
Aluminum is the third most prevalent element on Earth, but its ingestion and/or absorption has been implicated in the development of Alzheimer’s disease and osteoporosis.
Although the research has been muddied over the past forty years with conflicting scientific results, a recent meta-analysis of the data compiled from various studies—including more than 10,000 patients with long-term exposure to aluminum— found that individuals chronically exposed to aluminum were 71% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Aluminum is a known neurotoxin, and aluminum deposits have been found in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Aluminum has also been shown to be a metalloestrogen and can cause hormonal effects. Breast cancer has been associated with aluminum exposure through the use of antiperspirants. In June 2011, the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization, a joint committee of the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO), proposed a dietary intake limit of two mg/kg of aluminum from all sources, including drinking water and food. Calculating one’s ingestion of aluminum daily is unrealistic, and unfortunately many populations in the world have exposures that are higher than this limit. The greatest exposure to aluminum may come from food, depending on one’s diet. In one study from China, even leafy green vegetables were shown to have high levels of aluminum, absorbed from the soil. The question of is aluminum cookware — and other materials — safe is one that public health organizations worldwide take seriously.
Your choice of cookware may also contribute to the quantity of aluminum you ingest. There has been concern over the years that aluminum can leach into your food from a pot or pan in two ways: mechanically and chemically. By using a sharp or hard utensil such as a metal fork or a spatula on an aluminum pan, you can scrape off and dislodge particles of aluminum by abrasion. If the pan is worn or contains pits and scratches, scraping the pan will release even more aluminum particles. Aluminum can also leach into food through chemical interaction, particularly with acidic and salty foods.
There are two types of aluminum pots and pans on the market: anodized and non-anodized. Anodized cookware has a thin layer of aluminum oxide on its surface. This layer makes the surface more durable and less likely to flake off and corrode. Therefore, if you prefer to cook with aluminum pans, anodized aluminum cookware is a safer product. Anodized cookware conducts heat quickly and its surface is nonstick and scratch-resistant. Calphalon is a well-known, respected brand of anodized nonstick aluminum cookware.