Health & Family

Arguing over aluminum toxicity

Q: As a retired industrial hygienist, I take issue with your response to a question about aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease. No link has been established between Al (aluminum) and dementia.

Al is the most abundant mineral in Earth’s crust. If it caused health problems, everyone would have whatever the problem was. You should know this. Your answer reinforced the person’s misinformed fear.

A: You might be surprised at the research that has been published in recent years. One review outlined evidence “supporting the concept of aluminum’s involvement in hastening brain aging” (Toxicology, January 2014).

People with dementia have twice as much aluminum in their hair as healthy people, presumably reflecting a higher body burden (Spectrochimica Acta Part A: Molecular and Biomolecular Spectroscopy online, Sept. 16, 2014). Aluminum also may facilitate the development of beta-amyloid plaques, the signature pathologic feature of Alzheimer’s disease (Frontiers in Neurology online, Sept. 5, 2014).

Celiac disease symptoms

Q: People who have very smelly poop or gas that could knock a train off the tracks may have celiac disease. That was my problem, and a totally gluten-free diet cured the stinky poo/gas as well as many other symptoms.

A: Abdominal bloating and foul-smelling stool are only a few of the symptoms of celiac disease. In this condition, exposure to gluten found in barley, rye and wheat triggers an autoimmune reaction that slowly destroys the lining of the digestive tract. Other common symptoms include anemia, fatigue, unexplained aches and pains, chronic canker sores and migraine headaches. A blood test is the first step in diagnosis.

Vitamin D in winter

Q: I’ve become concerned about not getting enough vitamin D in the wintertime. Would a sunlamp help me get my vitamin D level up?

I also tend to get a little blue during the gray days of winter. Might the sunlamp help with that, too?

A: For most of human history, the major way of getting adequate vitamin D was sun exposure. Few of us now get enough sunshine in the wintertime to maintain healthy levels of this nutrient.

It is possible to get vitamin D by exposing your skin to a lamp that emits UVB (ultraviolet B radiation). Dermatologists generally discourage this approach, as it can increase the risk for skin aging or cancer. They often recommend an oral supplement to boost vitamin D levels.

Winter blues, symptoms of depression that arise during winter months and fade at other times of the year, are technically termed seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Light therapy can be effective for this condition (Chronobiology International, April 2014). However, the bright light used to treat SAD has a different wavelength and will not produce vitamin D in the skin.

Reach Joe and Terry Graedon at