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I am concerned about the use of aluminum foil. I've heard that it is an unsafe metal and it leaks into foods when cooked with. What do you think, do you have any information on this metal?
Aluminum will react with certain foods, especially those that are more acidic. In some cases this can result in a metallic flavor to your dish or possibly discoloration of food.
There was evidence as early as 1965 showing a link with aluminum and Alzheimer's disease. The main source for concern were brain lesions in those who had died of Alzheimer's Disease. The abnormal brain tissue contained high levels of aluminum, and it was thought that excess intake of the metal might be the cause. To date, however, there has not been convincing evidence to demonstrate that environmental exposure to aluminum causes the lesions or Alzheimer's disease. Likewise, even if there were a relationship between aluminum and disease there are a number of other environmental sources for aluminum, including many foods, packaging, water supplies as well as medications such as antacids.
I personally use aluminum pans and aluminum foil for cooking. There are a number of treatments employed that can help reduce the tendency of aluminum to react with foods. The most common is anodized aluminum, where the outer layer has been thickened and hardened through electrolysis to render the surface less reactive. This works well for most recipes and ingredients, but for recipes where there may be a reaction between the metal of the pan and the ingredients, I will use stainless steel or enamel lined cast iron.
Thanks for writing,
Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP