Date: Thu Dec 27 13:25:00 2007
Posted By: Eli Hestermann, Assistant Professor
Area of science: Biochemistry
I know this isn't related to your question, but first I want to address
the concern that aluminum exposure may be related to the development of
Alzheimer's Disease. The easy answer here is that the results are
inconclusive, which gives hope to both sides of the debate. A better
scientific response, though, is that so far there is little evidence to
suggest a connection, and in fact the Nation
al Institutes of Health advises seniors that no connection exists.
(Incidentally, the NIH
also find no conclusive link between deodorants and breast cancer. I'm
sure you were sweating [ha ha] that one too.)
With out-of-date information still circulating, though, and given the
difficulty of proving a negative such as "aluminum in deodorant is
definitely not linked to Alzheimer's," some people are concerned about
the possibility of being exposed to aluminum. In order to investigate
this possibility, researchers at Penn
State and Purdue labeled the aluminum in aluminum chlorohydrate (the
common active ingredient in antiperspirants) and then monitored levels of
the labeled aluminum in blood and urine following application under the
arms. They determined that only 0.012% of the aluminum was absorbed,
which amounts to about 2.5% of the amount people absorb from their food.
Although no direct studies have been conducted, I doubt absorption of
aluminum from potassium alum is any higher. Therefore, in one respect,
the marketing you saw is probably true: the aluminum ion is not absorbed.
However, since it's not really absorbed from typical antiperspirants
either it's hard to see how this is a benefit.
There is one big difference in how aluminum chlorohydrate and potassium
alum work. The former causes swelling of cells that line sweat ducts,
squeezing them closed and reducing the amount of sweat. These are
effectively "antiperspirants." Alum, on the other hand, is not an
antiperspirant, but instead appears to slow the growth of bacteria that
produce the odor.
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