Aluminum foil is a common household product that is often used in cooking.
Some people argue that the use of aluminum foil in the kitchen can cause aluminum to enter food and endanger your health.
However, others say it is completely safe to use.
This article explores the risks associated with the use of aluminum foil and determines whether or not it is acceptable for daily use.
What is aluminum foil?
Aluminum foil, or tin foil, is a thin sheet of polished aluminum. This is done by rolling large aluminum plates until they are less than 0.2mm thick.
It is used industrially for a variety of purposes, including packaging, insulation and transportation. It is also widely available in household food stores.
At home, people use aluminum foil to store food, cover cooking surfaces, and wrap foods, such as meat, to prevent them from losing moisture during cooking.
People can also use aluminum foil to wrap and protect more delicate foods, such as vegetables, when cooking.
Finally, it can be used to align grill trays to keep things tidy and to scrub pots or grills to remove stubborn stains and residue.
Summary: Aluminum foil is a thin, versatile metal commonly used in the home, especially in the kitchen.
There are small amounts of aluminum in food
Aluminum is one of the most abundant metals on earth (1).
In its natural state, it is linked to other elements such as phosphate and sulfate in the soil, rocks and clay.
However, it is also found in small amounts in air, water and food.
In fact, it is found naturally in most foods, including fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, grains, and dairy products (2).
Certain foods, such as tea leaves, mushrooms, spinach and radishes, are also more likely to absorb and accumulate aluminum than other foods (2).
In addition, some of the aluminum you eat comes from processed food additives, such as preservatives, colors, anti-caking agents and thickeners.
Note that commercially produced foods containing food additives may contain more aluminum than homemade foods (3, 4).
The actual amount of aluminum in the food you eat depends largely on the following factors:
Absorption: the ease with which a food absorbs and adheres to aluminum
Soil: the aluminum content of the soil in which the food was grown
Packaging: if the food has been packed and stored in aluminum packaging
Additives: if certain additives were added to the food during processing
Aluminum is also ingested by drugs with high aluminum content, such as antacids.
Either way, the aluminum content of food and medicine is not considered a problem, since only a small amount of aluminum that you ingest is actually absorbed.
The rest is in your stool. In addition, in healthy people, the absorbed aluminum is then excreted in the urine (5, 6).
Generally, the small amount of aluminum you ingest daily is considered safe (2, 7, 8).
Summary: Aluminum is ingested through food, water and drugs. However, most of the aluminum you ingest passes through the stool and urine and is not considered harmful.
Cooking with aluminum foil can increase the aluminum content of food
Most of the aluminum intake comes from food.
However, studies show that aluminum foil, cookware and containers can leach aluminum from food (6, 9).
This means that cooking with aluminum foil can increase the aluminum content of the diet. The amount of aluminum that passes into food when baking with aluminum foil is affected by a number of things, such as (6, 9):
Temperature: cooking at higher temperatures
Food: cook with acidic foods, such as tomatoes, cabbage and rhubarb
Some ingredients: use of salts and spices in cooking
However, the amount that permeates the food during cooking can vary.
For example, one study found that cooking red meat in aluminum foil could increase the aluminum content between 89% and 378% (10).
These studies have raised concerns that regular use of aluminum foil in the kitchen may be harmful to health (9). However, there is currently no concrete evidence linking the use of aluminum foil to an increased risk of disease (11).
Summary: Cooking with aluminum foil can increase the amount of aluminum in food. However, the quantities are very small and considered safe by researchers.
Potential health risks from too much aluminum
The daily exposure to aluminum that you have through food and cooking is considered safe.
In fact, healthy people can effectively expel the small amounts of aluminum that the body absorbs (12).
However, dietary aluminum has been suggested as a potential factor in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological disease caused by a loss of brain cells. People with this condition experience memory loss and reduced brain function (13).
The cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not known, but it is believed to be due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors, which can damage the brain over time (14).
High levels of aluminum have been found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.
However, since there is no link between people who have a high aluminum intake due to drugs, such as antacids and Alzheimer’s disease, it is not clear if dietary aluminum is really a cause of the disease (6).
It is possible that exposure to very high levels of aluminum in the diet may contribute to the development of brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease (15, 16, 17).
But the exact role that aluminum plays in the development and progression of Alzheimer’s disease, if any, remains to be determined.
In addition to its potential role in brain disease, a handful of studies have suggested that dietary aluminum may be an environmental risk factor for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) (18, 19).
Despite some studies in test tubes and in animals alluding to correlation, no study has yet found a definitive link between aluminum intake and IBD (20, 21).
Summary: High levels of aluminum in the diet have been suggested as a contributing factor to Alzheimer’s disease and IBD. However, its role under these conditions is not clear.
How to minimize exposure to aluminum during baking
It’s impossible to completely eliminate aluminum from your diet, but you can work to minimize it.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have agreed that levels below 2 mg per 2.2 pounds (1 kg) of body weight per week will cause health problems (22). ).
The European Food Safety Authority uses a more conservative estimate of 1 mg per 2.2 pounds (1 kg) of body weight per week (2).
However, many people are assumed to consume much less than this (2, 7, 8). Here are some steps you can take to minimize unnecessary exposure to aluminum during cooking:
Avoid cooking over high heat: cook food at lower temperatures as much as possible.
Use less aluminum foil: reduce your use of aluminum foil for cooking, especially if you cook with acidic foods, such as tomatoes or lemons.
Use aluminum-free cookware: use aluminum-free cookware to cook food, such as glass and porcelain dishes and cookware.
Avoid mixing aluminum foil and acidic foods: avoid exposing aluminum foil or casseroles to acidic foods, such as tomato sauce or rhubarb (23).
In addition, since commercially processed foods can be wrapped in aluminum or contain food additives that contain it, they can have higher levels of aluminum than their homemade equivalents (3, 4).
Therefore, eating mainly homemade foods and reducing consumption of commercially processed foods can help reduce aluminum consumption (2, 3, 8).
Summary: Exposure to aluminum can be reduced by reducing the consumption of highly processed foods and by reducing the use of aluminum foil and aluminum cookware.
Should you stop using aluminum foil?
Aluminum foil is not considered dangerous, but it can slightly increase the aluminum content of food.
If you are concerned about the amount of aluminum in your diet, you may want to stop cooking with aluminum foil.
However, the amount of aluminum that aluminum foil contributes to food is probably insignificant.
Since you are probably eating well below the amount of aluminum considered safe, it should not be necessary to remove the aluminum foil from cooking.