Aluminum foil can be used in many ways in your kitchen, including to line sheet pans and make packets for grilling or to store food in the refrigerator. Can cooking with foil cause serious health problems?
Fact or myth?
Rumors have circulated over the years about high levels of aluminum posing health risks such as Alzheimer’s Disease and kidney disease. Aluminum is everywhere. Aluminum is found naturally in water, soil, and air, and is used as an additive and preservative. Aluminum can also be found in cosmetics, antiperspirants, and antacids. Problems with regular contact do not seem to be present.
Aluminum foil can leach small amounts into aluminum cookware and foil. The body has many mechanisms to eliminate excess aluminum from the body.
Aluminum toxicity is a condition that can cause damage to your brain, bones, and muscles over time. The Centers for Disease Control states that high levels of aluminum can be caused either by mining or processing aluminum ores, as well as the production of aluminum metals, alloys, and compounds. Additionally, incinerators and coal-fired power plants can release small amounts of aluminum into the environment.
In the Kitchen
Are there any concerns for home cooks? The CDC says it does not appear to be so. According to the CDC, “very small amounts of aluminum found in food and water will enter your body via the digestive tract.” But most aluminum in food, medicine, and water leaves your body quickly through your feces. Aluminum can also be found in your bloodstream, but it will quickly leave your body through your urine.
Research has shown that aluminum leaching can be perpetuated by high temperatures, acidic foods, salt, and spices. While it is unlikely that aluminum leaching will cause harm, parchment paper can be used for high-temperature baking (above 400 F) and acidic leftovers can be stored in glass containers rather than foil.
What about aluminum pans?
The Alzheimer’s Association stated that people believed aluminum in pots or pans could cause Alzheimer’s disease. However, there have been no studies to prove that aluminum is a factor in Alzheimer’s.
According to the CDC aluminum pots and saucepans are not considered to be dangerous. Aluminum pots can be more harmful than pots made of stainless steel or glass if you cook acidic foods in them often.
Aluminum in the kitchen is safe. The following recommendations can be used if you are concerned about aluminum foil containing acidic foods and aluminum foil being heated at high temperatures.