Health, according to the World Health Organization, is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity”. A variety of definitions have been used for different purposes over time. Health can be promoted by encouraging healthful activities, such as regular physical exercise and adequate sleep, and by reducing or avoiding unhealthful activities or situations, such as smoking or excessive stress. Some factors affecting health are due to individual choices, such as whether to engage in a high-risk behavior, while others are due to structural causes, such as whether the society is arranged in a way that makes it easier or harder for people to get necessary healthcare services. Still other factors are beyond both individual and group choices, such as genetic disorders.
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The idea that metals could be contributing to Alzheimer’s and dementia has led into this debate that cooking utensils can cause these diseases.
Metals are found everywhere. We drive a car made from them and eat food in metal serveware and cookware. The human brain has some amounts of iron and copper in it naturally. These are imperative for healthy brain functioning. However, the brain of patients dealing with neurological issues like dementia and Alzheimer’s has reportedly higher concentrations of these metals.
This revelation led to the speculation that aluminum can cause dementia and Alzheimer’s. The suspicion tunneled to further claims that dementia is caused by using everyday aluminum items such as pots and pans, and even beverage cans.
What caused this uproar on aluminium utensils and dementia risk?
You will be surprised to know that this claim dates back to 1965. During a study on brain functioning, researchers were injected with an extremely high dose of aluminium. The poor bunnies developed toxic tau tangles in their brains. This advanced into a claim that aluminium from cookware and canned foods could be causing dementia.
While a lot of the modern day frying pans, saucepans and kadhai that we use are made from the same metal, we wanted answers!
Dr Khushbu Goel, Consultant, Neurology HCMCT Manipal Hospital, Dwarka, spoke to HealthShots about the effects of using aluminium utensils on human brain.
“The common sign of dementia is degeneration of the brain cells. In Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia and vascular dementia, brain cells get degenerated and cannot be reversed completely”, says Dr Goel.
“However, using aluminium utensils don’t pose any threat to these conditions. As far as cooking aluminum utensils causing dementia, I think that’s very low or uncertain. Therefore, no significant studies or scientific evidence can confirm any such speculation.”
Well, that’s a relief!
There is no strong evidence to support the fears of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease through aluminium exposure.
Here are some definite causes of dementia:
- Nutritional deficiencies of vitamin B 12, vitamin D6, B1 can be responsible for neurological diseases.
- Some infections like Tuberculosis can cause temporary dementia and there is reversal if you treat the infection.
- Some metabolic conditions like liver disease, kidney disease can pose a risk of dementia and alzheimers. “Therefore, depending on the cause, these neurological diseases can be reversible and sometimes not”, says Dr Goel.
The common symptoms of dementia are:
- Memory impairment in the form of difficulty in retaining useful information like forgetting names, or a recently learnt skill.
- Difficulty in judgment like planning, organization and execution.
- Learning new things may become strenous.
- Navigation and spatial recognition may drop low.
- Language difficulties
- Other symptoms like depression, anxiety, apathy, emotional lability, insomnia can be associated with dementia.
As far as the precautionary measures are concerned, these things may prevent dementia:
Some of the types of dementia, like vascular dementia, are caused by the blood pressure, blood sugar level, and heart diseases. But, smoking and drinking alcohol may also increase the risk. “We can take preventive measures to prevent their onset or reduce their progression”, says Dr Goel.
However, there are some varieties of reversible dementia which are caused due to metabolic conditions, nutritional deficiencies and infections. If we treat these conditions within time, it can slow their progression.
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