We should listen to … Chris Exley | Brussels Blog

We should listen to … Chris Exley

posted by on 27th Mar 2015

People we should listen to. No. 4

Professor Chris Exley on aluminium and Alzheimer’s

Does aluminium increase the chances of Alzheimers?

The easiest place to start is Chris Exley’s YouTube presentation which he introduced like this

Even my old boss at The Royal Society, Professor I Forget His Name FRS, enquired quizzically of me as to why I was bothering to research aluminium. I explained that this was actually the subject for which I was awarded my Royal Society University Research Fellowship! Oh, he replied, his dark and slightly foreboding eyes beginning to glaze over as our ‘interview’ came to an abrupt end. I am sure that he mumbled something about it (aluminium) having no biological purpose and being essentially benign as he walked away, probably convinced that I was wasting both his and my time! One of his mumbles had some substance, aluminium having no known essential biological role, but his other final utterance, purposefully beneath his breath, that aluminium had no biological reactivity was at best uninformed and more likely contrived.

Does silicon rich water help ?

Another video has this introduction:

Professor Exley is a biologist with a PhD in the ecotoxicology of aluminium (both University of Stirling). During his PhD research he discovered a unique biochemical relationship between the elements aluminium and silicon and it is the story of the co-evolution of these two elements in biological systems which has been his life’s work to-date.

Is there a lack of research, if so why?

At a party conference last autumn I went to a meeting involving Alzheimers UK because I wanted to ask questions about the effects of long term use of benzodiazepine tranquillisers having been sent a paper about it, Benzodiazepine use and risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

In preparation I looked up some information and found Professor Exley’s video and found it convincing and wondered why more research hasn’t been done. I wrote to my MP, Sir Hugh Bayley:

I have since been concerned by some comments I have received from Professor Exley on the stance of Alzheimer’s UK. Professor Exley thinks they have been unduly influenced by the aluminium industry so have downplayed the possible role of aluminium in dementia.

[A] concern is the lack of funding for research, like Professor Exley’s, which searches for life-style changes aimed at the prevention of dementia. Funding such research would be tiny compared to the cost of developing a new drug. An article in Forbes Magazine gives some background: The Cost Of Creating A New Drug Now $5 Billion, Pushing Big Pharma To Change (2).

I know people who buy water filters the remove aluminium from tap water. Despite its non-green implications I now drink bottled water rich in silica in case Professor Exley’s fears are justified. His research has shown this will leach aluminium from our bodies. Is the expense of extra filtering and bottled water sensible?

Sir Hugh kindly passed my concerns on to the Department of Health and received a reply from Jane Ellison, which says

I note Mr Beacon’s concerns about the possible effects of aluminium on human health. Two expert groups have considered the safety of aluminium in detail in recent years, and have reviewed the large number of scientific studies on aluminium and Alzheimer’s disease.

One was the seventy-fourth meeting of the joint Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), which published its report in 2012. JECFA concluded that the information available does not support the premise that aluminium causes Alzheimer‘s disease.

The second expert group was the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment’s Lowermoor sub-group, which published it’s report in 2013. It considered the potential long-term health effects of the aluminium exposure resulting from the water pollution incident that occurred near Camelford in 1988. The Lowermoor sub-group also concluded that the evidence its that aluminium exposure does not cause Alzheimer’s disease. However, it added that it has not been established whether aluminium may contribute indirectly in some cases.

Similarly, the Alzheimer’s Society’s position on aluminium is that current medical and scientific opinion of the relevant research indicates that the findings do not convincingly demonstrate a causal relationship between aluminium and Alzheimer’s disease.Therefore no useful medical or public health recommendations can be made at present. This statement is available on its website, www.alzheimers.org.uk by typing ‘aluminium and dementia’ into the search bar, and then clicking on the appropriate link.

I recognise that the incidence of Alzheimer‘s disease is increasing, and that this is a matter of concern. However, in view of the opinions of the above bodies I can assure Mr Beacon that the prevailing evidence does not indicate that aluminium is the cause.

I have sent a further letter to Sir Hugh Bayley saying

Thank you for forwarding Jane Ellison’s letter of 12th December 2014 concerning the possible connection between aluminium and Alzheimer‘s disease. You may recall I asked

“what they think is the current state of knowledge on [this issue]? Also what research is likely to be funded?”

Please ask the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State to answer my question on research funding.

In answering the question of a link between aluminium and Alzheimer‘s disease, I find it surprising that the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health should quote the opinion of Alzheimer’s UK, given this part of my original note:

“I have since been concerned by some comments I have received from Professor Exley on the stance of Alzheimer’s UK. Professor Exley thinks they have been unduly influenced by the aluminium industry so have downplayed the possible role of aluminium in dementia. “

Please ask the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State to comment on the standing of Alzheimer’s UK with the Department of Health.

I have also note the paper by Professor Exley in the journal Frontiers in Neurology, “Why industry propaganda and political interference cannot disguise the inevitable role played by human exposure to aluminium in neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease”.

Please ask the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State to give some guidance on the status of the journal Frontiers in Neurology and the content of Professor Exley’s paper.

Reports like the one in the Daily Mail on 14 October 2014 are worrying: “Aluminium could be poisoning our brains and causing Alzheimer’s, professor claims”. This can be found at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2792370/aluminium-poisoning-brains-causing-alzheimer-s-professor-claims.html

Please ask the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State if she thinks the Daily Mail is raising unnecessary fears.

I await a reply but it is clear to me we should listen to Professor Chris Exley.


Postscript 9th January 2018

Chris Exley gave two new talks on aluminium given at LiveAware in San Francisco last autumn. They may be found on his department’s Media and Presentations page. Here’s a link to one of the videos, which starts at a point where he explains how a research contract was withdrawn.

That’s interesting.


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