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Aluminum's Health Risks Summarized in New Systematic Review

So I recently launched my inaugural book, LIFE: The Epic Story of Our Mitochondria, during a presentation to about 150 colleagues at the CHFA East show in Toronto. The event was a big success and I want to thank everyone for their support, glowing reviews, and excitement over the future of mitochondrial medicine.

As you may have guessed from above, the topic of my book is mitochondrial health and cellular energetics. It's an incredibly fascinating area with a tonne of research being published every week. Seriously. I'm talking on average about 300 new peer-reviewed publications (every week) that are in one way or another connected to mitochondria. That's insane! Anyway, I think you'll hear MUCH more about the topic in the near future, so if you want to get your hands on a copy of the book and give yourself a head start in understanding this rapidly growing area, you can buy the book online through these various retailers:
  • Zwell.ca - my exclusive online healthfood retailer for the softcover copy
  • Amazon - where you can also purchase the Kindle ebook version
  • Chapters/Indigo - where you can buy the Kobo ebook version
  • many health food stores across Canada will soon stock the book in their literature section

I mention this since today's new study of discussion partly looked at the mitochondria, in relation to aluminum exposure. So, with that said, let's talk about this new study...

Aluminum (Al) is a ubiquitous substance encountered both naturally (as the third most abundant element) and intentionally (used in water, foods, pharmaceuticals, and vaccines); it is also present in ambient and occupational airborne particulates.

Existing data underscore the importance of Al physical and chemical forms in relation to its uptake, accumulation, and systemic bioavailability. The authors of the present review represents a systematic examination of the peer-reviewed literature on the adverse health effects of Al materials published since a previous critical evaluation compiled and published in 2007 . Challenges encountered in carrying out the present review reflected the experimental use of different physical and chemical Al forms, different routes of administration, and different target organs in relation to the magnitude, frequency, and duration of exposure.

Wide variations in diet can result in Al intakes that are often higher than the World Health Organization provisional tolerable weekly intake (PTWI), which is based on studies with Al citrate. Comparing daily dietary Al exposures on the basis of "total Al"assumes that gastrointestinal bioavailability for all dietary Al forms is equivalent to that for Al citrate, an approach that requires validation.

Current occupational exposure limits (OELs) for identical Al substances vary as much as 15-fold. The toxicity of different Al forms depends in large measure on their physical behavior and relative solubility in water. The toxicity of soluble Al forms depends upon the delivered dose of Al(+3) to target tissues. Trivalent Al reacts with water to produce bidentate superoxide coordination spheres that after complexation with O2(-), generate Al superoxides (free-radicals). Semireduced AlO2 radicals deplete mitochondrial Fe and promote generation of H2O2 and O2(-). Thus, it is the Al(+3)-induced formation of oxygen radicals that accounts for the oxidative damage that leads to intrinsic apoptosis. (Although there are controversies with Al exposure and risk of Alzheimer's disease (AD), knowing that mitochondrial dysfunction is now linked with this form of dementia, could point to Al-induced free-radicals as the bridge connecting Al exposure to AD.)

In contrast, the toxicity of the insoluble Al oxides depends primarily on their behavior as particulates. Aluminum has been held responsible for human morbidity and mortality, but there are too many data gaps and inconsistent results to make conclusions in many areas of health. Aluminum exposures during neonatal and pediatric parenteral nutrition (PN) can impair bone mineralization and delay neurological development. Adverse effects to vaccines with Al adjuvants have occurred; however, recent controlled trials found that the immunologic response to certain vaccines with Al adjuvants was no greater, and in some cases less than, that after identical vaccination without Al adjuvants.

The authors conclude that the scientific literature on the adverse health effects of Al is extensive. Health risk assessments for Al must take into account individual co-factors (e.g., age, renal function, diet, gastric pH). Finally, they point to the need for refinement of the PTWI, reduction of Al contamination in PN solutions, justification for routine addition of Al to vaccines, and harmonization of OELs for Al substances.

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Source: Systematic review of potential health risks posed by pharmaceutical, occupational and consumer exposures to metallic and nanoscale aluminum, aluminum oxides, aluminum hydroxide and its soluble salts


  1. I was looking at the kindle sample to see if I wanted to buy. I had two questions:

    1 the table of contents did not list an index -- is that correct?

    2 The table of contents in part three did not mention vitamin K2 although I know that you have often written about it. Are you aware that K2, in addition to its bone related functions, is thought to be a mitochondrial electron transport carrier? For all I remember, I learned this from you! There is a lot of interest in seeing if vitamin k2 can be helpful with neuro-degenerative diseases.

    1. Hi Peter,

      Thanks for your interest in the book! Yes, you're right; I did not think to include an index, and you're not the first person to suggest I should have included one. This is something I will need to develop if and when I publish a follow-up second edition.

      Also, you're right in that K2 is known to be an electron carrier in the electron transport chain; however, this appears to be only in certain bacteria. HOWEVER, more recently there is some evidence to suggest this MAY happen in humans as well. The evidence is very spotty at this time, but it's definitely something very interesting, and something I keep my eye on. Unfortunately, I don't see a lot of research activity in this area specifically.

      There is one study that looked at menaquinone as an electron carrier in astrocytes, so this relates back to your comment on the neuro-degenerative diseases. There are also other possible ways vitamin K benefits the brain as we know Gas-6 and protein S are vitamin K-dependent proteins found in the brain.

      If you have any more information on vitamin K as an electron carrier for respiratory complexes in humans, please share with me. Would love to learn more!

  2. Hello Lee, I just finished LIFE and enjoyed it very much. Rigorous material, and I will need to review the first 50 pages or so again. I went out and purchased the supplements you recommended, wish I could have gotten Innovite products in the US. I was wondering if you had an update on the recommended dosing levels, perhaps it is too soon?

    1. Hi Ken, happy you hear you liked the book...hope you were able to overlook the edits that were missed during the editing process (my publisher says that's apparently normal for the first print of a manuscript). :)

      Unfortunately, I don't give recommended doses since this borders prescribing, which I would only be able to do legally (and ethically) after seeing you as a patient and doing a proper patient intake and assessment. Also, many times these can vary from person to person. For example, CoQ10 is best dosed at a level that will raise blood levels to at least 2.5 mcg/mL (but ideally at least 3.5 mcg/mL). In order to do this accurately, you would need to take a dose for a couple weeks and take a blood test, then adjust the dose and test again a couple weeks later. We would continue doing this until we get the right dose for YOU. You can see this wouldn't be easy or convenient in real life.

      As a general statement, however, just stick within the standard ranges. For example:

      100-300 mg/day of CoQ10 or ubiquinol
      5 g/day of D-ribose
      20 mg/day of PQQ (although I've had good results personally with doses around 10 mg/day or less)
      500-1500 mg/day of L-carnitine
      500 mg/day of magnesium
      etc... (pretty standard doses for each nutrient).

      Hope this helps!


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