By Dr. Royal Lee
Summary: Aluminum poisoning was an unsuspected cause of degenerative health conditions until Dr. Royal Lee and others of his time exposed the truth. As aluminum cookware and food products containing aluminum, such as baking powder, became more widely used, Dr. Lee and others soon realized the dangers of human exposure to this nonnutritional element. In this classic report, Dr. Lee proposes a mechanism by which aluminum—through upset of the body’s phosphorous-calcium balance—can cause disease via overactivity of one of the two branches of the autonomic nervous system, the sympathetic and the parasympathetic. Dr. Lee also provides an extensive table listing the symptoms of overactivity of each of these systems—an absolutely essential reference for any health practitioner or student of nutrition. Published by the Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research, 1946.[The following is a transcription of the original Archives document. To view or download the original document, click here.]
The Effect of Aluminum Compounds in Foods[Preface, by Dr. Royal Lee:]
This letter [below] will emphasize the danger of unsuspected aluminum poisoning. It shows how exposure to one poison, aluminum, sensitizes a person to another, in this case DDT.
Also, most people are not aware that all commercial aluminum is saturated with fluoride, because it was made by electrolysis in a fluoride bath. Therefore all aluminum can release small amounts of fluoride during its gradual dissolution by food acids and alkalis. That is why Dr. Leo Spira was surprised to discover fluoride poisoning from the use of aluminum cooking utensils.
The discovery by Dr. Clive McCay at Cornell University that even one part per million of fluoride in drinking water is still poisonous—it will cause loss of teeth in test animals and kidney damage after several years of administration—is illustrative of the vicious nature of the element fluorine. (Reported in the Journal of Gerontology, January 1957). We need to recall Dr. Harvey W. Wiley‘s statement that poisons are harmful in proportion to their presence, that there is no safe dosage of any poison, and that poisons have no place in foods, [even] though as preservatives they are constantly being surreptitiously fed to us. As Dr. E.V. McCollum of Johns Hopkins University has so well expressed it, the index of wholesomeness of a food is its perishability, but we must eat it before it spoils (and without poison preservatives).
—Royal Lee, DDS[Letter to Dr. Lee about aluminum poisoning, by unknown patient:]
Syracuse, New York
February 22, 1957
Dear Dr. Lee,
I want to thank you so much for your kindness last summer when my mother sent you a telegram about aluminum poisoning. We can never tell you how grateful we are to you.
We were unable to get competent local medical help. As you know, I was treated by Dr. [name omitted] of New York City, for whom I have the greatest respect. I hope Dr. [name omitted] has told you the details of the case.
I know you will be happy to know that I am making a recovery. It has been almost seven months since I have had contact with aluminum. As far as we have been able to ascertain, we eat no foods and use no cosmetics containing aluminum or fluorides.
I am following a natural-food diet. We order much of my food from organic farms. I take natural vitamin and mineral supplements.
Since November I have been having three physiotherapy treatments a week, and they are very beneficial.
The illness was finally called allergy. I had not suffered from any allergy or sensitivity until after I began using a deodorant containing aluminum chloride. I used the product for more than ten years. Also, we used aluminum cooking utensils, baking powder, and table salt containing aluminum salts and bakery products.
For ten years I had been misdiagnosed and treated unsuccessfully for various ailments.
For several years I have suffered extreme muscular weakness and loss of sensation in the arms and back and legs. I have had chronic breathing difficulty and acute breathing crisis for many years. These were not asthmatic attacks and did not respond to treatment by an allergy specialist. During some breathing collapses, when I lost consciousness, respirators and oxygen were used to restore the breathing.
Fortunately, my mother realized last summer that the source of my illness might be contact with aluminum.
During my stay in the hospital in New York, I was exposed to a DDT bomb for two nights. The condition I was in after I returned home is almost unbelievable. My body filled with edema, and my skin became a dark yellow. I was so weak I could not tolerate the weight of a sheet or the slightest noise, jolt, or bright light. There were periods of coma for several days. Any muscular action, even of the eyes, all but stopped my breathing. The pain in every part of the body was indescribable. I was in this acute condition for weeks.
We could not get a local doctor who would treat me unless I was moved to a hospital. Obviously, this was impossible, as both my mother and Dr. —— understood. The local doctors simply would not accept the fact that aluminum and DDT could cause any kind of an illness.
My progress has been very slow, but now my muscular strength and breathing have improved so that I have been able to resume some activity. The edema and jaundice—and the accompanying pain—are almost gone. In the last two weeks, I have made great strides.
I hope in time to be able to resume my teaching career. I am now twenty-four years old.
I have been able to arrange to attend a child psychology class that meets once a week at Syracuse University, where I am studying towards a master’s degree.
I have studied the material printed by the Lee Foundation in great detail. Last week I presented a short report on the nutritional aspects of child psychology to the class. It led to a class discussion during which I presented the effects of aluminum—the chemicals, dyes, preservatives, and conditioners in the foods, sprays and chemical fertilizers. The students and the professor were extremely receptive to these “new” and astonishing facts and wanted to read the literature from the Foundation and learn more about these things.
Although there are many people, as you know, who will not listen to this information, there are others who will listen if the information is only made available. I hope, after I am completely recovered, to spend my life disseminating this information wherever and whenever I can. Already, I have reached many people and loaned the Lee literature to them. Some of these people, who have been chronically ill with “mysterious” or misdiagnosed ailments, have listened and understood and are now getting better.
Dr. Lee, it is wonderful and vital work that you and other fearless people are doing to fight the degeneration of our bodies and minds and of our society. I want you to know that those of us who have suffered the devastating effects of aluminum and other metals and chemicals will fight to spread this knowledge and prevent this suffering in others.
I hope that some day we shall have the privilege of thanking you personally.
[Name omitted] [Main article, by Dr. Lee:]
The Effect of Aluminum Compounds in Foods
The action of aluminum compounds that may be present in food products intended for human consumption has for many years been a matter of much difference of opinion. Dr. Harvey W. Wiley, the first head of the [agency that became the] U.S. Food and Drug Administration, suspected that aluminum compounds were harmful ingredients in any food product and tried to establish regulations that would eliminate foods adulterated with aluminum salts from interstate commerce.
Expert investigators, however, always were able to testify that little or no absorption of aluminum occurred from the ingestion of foods containing such salts, and thereby aluminum was given the benefit of the doubt from a legal standpoint.
To properly understand what biochemical disturbances occur in the human economy as a result of the use of aluminum-tainted foods, we must first establish a few basic principles.
We offer herewith a theory based upon these premises, which we believe to be true; therefore we tentatively state them as facts.
Fact No. 1: The most stable salt of aluminum is the phosphate. The soluble salts of aluminum, if put into a mixture containing food phosphates, will rob those phosphates of phosphorus.
Fact No. 2: Aluminum phosphate is useless in nutrition as a source of phosphorus and is insoluble and unassimilable.
Fact No. 3: Calcium is normally absorbed as a soluble salt (lactate, malate, succinate, tartrate, phytate), is oxidized to bicarbonate, and later becomes a physiological phosphate by reaction with another phosphate, such as sodium phosphate, or the phosphorus radical in some organic combination as a lecithin. (Insoluble forms of calcium phosphate, such as tricalcium phosphate, are practically unassimilable according to carefully conducted animal tests.)1
Fact No. 4: Calcium is distributed in the blood as a phosphate attached to a protein molecule and as such is nondiffusible into the tissues; this represents a blood calcium reserve and accounts for about 70% of the blood calcium. About half is ultra filtrable though nondiffusible and probably represents that part that is available to the lymphatic system—in addition to the diffusible component of blood calcium (as bicarbonate, which is also present in two forms—ionized and nonionized.)2
Fact No. 5: From this blood reserve of calcium must come the calcium for maintaining a balance of the autonomic nervous system, in which the potassium in the body fluids maintains the action of the parasympathetic group and the calcium supports the sympathetic.3 Phosphorus deficiency would impair this calcium supply to the tissues.
It now becomes apparent that aluminum can be of definite detriment even though never entering the bloodstream (for substances in the alimentary tube are often spoken of by physiologists as being outside the jurisdiction of the tissues but within the jurisdiction of the digestive processes). Aluminum salts in the intestinal contents apparently can deprive the body of phosphorus and destroy phosphorus compounds that are exceedingly vital to health. The effect is similar to the action of mineral oil, considered for many years as the most harmless of all laxatives because it “could not be absorbed.” Now we know it picks up and eliminates fat-soluble vitamins, particularly the vitamin A complex, and can be an exceedingly insidious poison.
In a similar way, the unwitting ingestion of aluminum salts apparently can open another Pandora’s box of disease.
In fact the two causes would be cumulative, for vitamin A deficiency aggravates acidosis by inhibiting the renal function of ammonia synthesis, and phosphorus deficiency causes acidosis by overstimulating the production of gastric acid by causing a degree of paralysis of the sympathetics, with consequent overaction of the opposing parasympathetics. This gastric hyperchlorhydria is considered by good authorities the immediate cause of peptic ulcers. A recent issue of Science News Letter (June 8, 1946, p. 367) contains the announcement of a surgical remedy for peptic ulcer: the cutting of the parasympathetic nerve branch to the stomach. This is a pretty crude remedy for a deficiency state—for in another recent reference, the statement is made that test animals deficient in vitamin A are “nearly always afflicted with stomach ulcers.” (Vitamin E in the diet also aids in preventing such ulcers, it was found.) (Science, 103, 2680:586–587, 1946.) In older subjects the same causes are considered responsible for cardiovascular disease (coronary thrombosis and myocardial failure).4
It is obvious how a diet high in alum-baking-powder biscuits and corn syrup—so prevalent in certain sections of this country as the source of a major part of the calories, with [their] practically zero content of minerals and vitamins—can be extremely effective in creating misery, disease, and hardship for the unwitting victims.
Another vitally important end result of disruption of autonomic nerve balance is the disturbance of fat metabolism.
Experimenters have proven that by the cutting of certain branches of the vegetative nervous system, the deposition of fat may be stimulated, and by cutting others, fat may be caused to absorb in the areas that are supplied by such nerve branches.5 In all probability we have here the explanation of that common disease of the modern human, pathological obesity—the obesity that persists despite all attempts to control it by dietary limitations, which necessarily are bound to fail [because] more deficiency cannot cure the result of deficiency.
Further, it is very significant to our hypothesis that a calcium deficit in the blood can cause fat deposits, for the rise in blood calcium that follows the administration of parathyroid hormone or that follows the feeding of calcium is found to experimentally produce an absorption of fat by the bloodstream, [the fat] apparently destined for oxidation.6
This may be why the use of such agents is often effective in reducing the appetite. A high blood fat could reasonably be expected to inhibit hunger sensations.
If aluminum acts to deprive the body of phosphorus and thereby secondarily impairs the assimilation of calcium or impairs its availability, as it appears to do from the foregoing, it certainly should act as a powerful influence to promote obesity. The evidence may not as yet be conclusive, but it is certainly more than suggestive.
As to the functional reactions of autonomic unbalance, the following table is offered; the degenerative changes that would follow a long, continued unbalance can only be imagined.
[Symptoms of Autonomic Imbalance]
Dry mouth; saliva flow decreased but with heavier concentration of organic substance
Excessive salivation, with watery saliva
Paralysis of muscles of accommodation
Spasm of muscles of accommodation
Enophthalmos; puffiness; edema of lid
Dryness of nasal membranes
|Nasal membranes moist, sometimes congested; nose “runs”
Normal or flushed mucous membranes
|Pale, undernourished mucous membranes
Pale, shell-like ears
|Normal or flushed ears|
|Respond violently to unexpected noise
Nervousness, strong light irritates
Mentally alert; quick
|Sluggish nervous system; asthenic type
Difficulty in concentrating
Sluggish; finds it hard to make decisions
Basal metabolism apt to be plus
Fever is raised easily
Blood pressure higher
Lowered basal rate
Does not raise fever easily
Blood pressure lower
Bradycardias; arrhythmias; palpitation
|Low carbohydrate tolerance
Blood sugar increased
Blood calcium decreased
|Increased carbohydrate tolerance
Blood sugar decreased or normal
Blood calcium increased or normal
|Slow clotting time; bleed easily
Abrasions heal slowly
Menstrual flow too frequent
Healing takes place rapidly
Diminution in amount of urine
|Hydration; circumscribed edema
Incontinence of urine
|Calcium accumulation||Calcium dissimilation|
|Tissue rest||Tissue activity|
|Alkalosis||Acidosis (hyperacid by alkali-retention test)|
|Pilomotor muscles activated (gooseflesh)
Extremities cold and clammy
Skin moist, w/subjective feeling of heatGenerally pallor of skin; sweating occurs but may be of “cold sweat” type
|Pilomotor reflex sluggish
Extremities warm and dry
Circulation poor; sensitive to lowered temperaturesGenerally, flushing or sweating due to vasodilation; sweating is usually depressed, except in toxic and infectious conditions
|Vasoconstriction according to degree of stimulation, with compensatory dilatation elsewhere. Vasoconstriction in a given local area is associated with leukopenia and sympathicotonia. Vasoconstriction in the splanchnics is compensated for by reflex dilation in the periphery. The control involves sympathetic nerves since the peripheral blood vessels are not supplied with parasympathetic fibers. (Vagal fibers have not been demonstrated beyond question in the splanchnic vessels.)||Vasodilation in some structures—apparently part of a compensatory mechanism; vasodilation in a given area is associated with leukocytosis and vagotonia. These facts may help explain apparent inconsistencies that are in reality simply compound syndromes due to local and general autonomic imbalances that give rise to confusing conclusions.|
|Low gastric acidity (hypochlorhydria)
Spastic sphincters (pyloric, cardiac)
Constipation (atonic type)Vomiting infrequent
Marked gagging reflexLoss of appetite generally, but this may vary and is not considered a good index. There may be gas, belching, fullness after meals, slow digestion, sour stomach, and fermentation.Esophagus relaxed
Liver secretions decreased
Pancreatic secretions decreased
Reduced flow of bile
Intestines and colon dilated, except sphincters and lower bowel
Spastic constipation (hyperkinetic) or diarrhea, sometimes alternating
Sluggish gagging reflexGood appetite generally or poor appetite with apparently good state of nutrition. Patient eats often, or weakness and hunger pains occur. Digestion takes place rapidly.Stenosis occurs; sometimes dysphagia
Liver secretions increased
Pancreatic secretions increased
Bile increased; heartburn occasionally
Intestines spastic; hypertonic; sphincters relaxed
|Linear type of build predominates||Body width-weight greater|
|Sensitive to adrenalin||Sensitive to pilocarpine|
|Itching of skin, with dermographia|
|Subject to pseudoneuralgic pains, probably concerned with faulty sugar utilization||Subject to colds, bronchitis, and asthma, with nasal and bronchial discharges; mucous colitis is common|
*Opposed by potassium, normally available from green leafy vegetable.
**Opposed by calcium, unavailable to the tissues if phosphorus is lacking.
The physician frequently finds patients that fail to respond to the administration of calcium in any form even though they exhibit many symptoms of severe calcium deficiency. These cases are in all probability suffering from phosphorus deficiency, so that the calcium arriving in the bloodstream as bicarbonate (by oxidation of the lactate, gluconate, levulinate, acetate, tartrate, etc.) cannot be converted into the physiological phosphate. Then, the sympathetic system becomes more or less paralyzed, and the parasympathetics are not opposed as they normally are, and parasympathicotonic symptoms are exhibited.
Paralysis in some degree of the parasympathetic group from potassium deficiency (the green leaf mineral), on the other hand, can be followed by symptoms of sympathicotonia.
It is improbable that an excess of either phosphorus, calcium, or potassium ever causes such serious disturbances as a deficiency; in fact, it is doubtful that any disturbance from an excess would follow unless a deficiency of the opposing element were present.
With a deficit of vitamins to act as an inhibitor of various biochemical processes, including impairment of endocrine function in general, and a deficit of minerals (potassium and phosphorus) to throw the autonomic balance out of gear, it is obvious that symptoms of both groups of this list may be seen at one time in one patient. Certainly cases are often found that defy classification.
To unscramble a mess of this kind by any diagnostic analysis after the patient has subjected himself to many years of punishment on common American diets surely taxes the ability of the most competent physician. No wonder our main statistical cause of death is cardiovascular disease—no doubt the end result of broken down and degenerated innervation. We can put the blame in all probability on our universal use of refined sweets and devitalized cereals—ably assisted by aluminum poisoning—for where these foods are not used, the incidence of heart and vascular disease is practically unknown.7
The use of enriched cereals cannot be considered a remedy, for test animals on enriched diets died quicker than those on deficient diets where the “enrichment” was made with synthetic vitamins.8
It is of interest to find that even plant metabolism is poisoned by aluminum salts. More interesting is the known fact that this poisoning is corrected by adding phosphates to the soil, indicative of the same phosphate-robbing effect we have specified as a result in the human case.9
Further, the degree of power of aluminum compounds in soil to render phosphorus insoluble is greatly enhanced at pH values below 5.7, which explains the importance of preventing soils from becoming acid. Acidity of soil is well known to aggravate phosphorus deficiency. The alkalinity (above a pH of 7) also enhances the solubility and combining power of aluminum salts, so that in the alkaline body fluids we again find a sensitive state towards aluminum.
It is important here to note that many perspiration deodorants owe their action to their content of aluminum acetate, which apparently can be absorbed by such use in sufficient amounts as to be definitely toxic and has been found the cause of serious aluminum poisoning in patients where every other route of ingestion was eliminated.
Makers of aluminum cooking utensils have reported many tests intended to demonstrate that aluminum salts are harmless. These tests mean nothing—in some cases silicates were deliberately added to the schedules to act as an antidote to the aluminum salts ingested.10 (Silicates and aluminum seem to be mutually antidotal for each other, for aluminum powder is now used to combat silicosis—formerly known as “miner’s consumption,” in which silica dust has created lung inflammation [and] infection in fibrosis, being administered by inhalation. Furthermore, sodium silicate has long been used as a remedy for arteriosclerosis—a condition we here see may be a direct result of aluminum poisoning.10 Also, phosphorus and phosphoric acid have been very successfully used as a remedy for arteriosclerosis.11,12)
In any case the effect of aluminum poisoning is so slow that the amounts in baking powder or from aluminum pans cannot be very effective in a test of a few weeks. A pellagra-producing diet must act ordinarily for years before the effects begin to be evident. The bleaching substances that destroy the vestiges of vitamins remaining in white flour also cannot be proven to have a deleterious effect. But it is the cumulative action of all these bad foods that in time cause the death or disability of the unsuspecting victim, produce partial or complete sterility, or reduce his ability to work and think.
The U.S. Supreme Court properly appraised the situation when it discussed the charge that bleached flour was a violation of the U.S. Pure Food [and Drug] Law:
“…and it is intended that if any flour, because of any added poisonous or other deleterious ingredient, may possibly injure the health…it shall come within the ban of the statute.” (Sup. Ct. Rpts. 58 Law Ed.: 658–663, 1913. Italics ours.)
That simply means that makers of foods or utensils may not experiment on the public health by impairing foods first and finding later that their conclusions of harmlessness were incorrect. (The fact is this Supreme Court decision was never enforced, apparently by reason of political influence over the Food and Drug Administration by commercial interests.)
The action of aluminum salts appear to be pathologically and biochemically similar to lead poisoning (though less drastic). Lead is likewise considered to act as a poison by rendering tissue phosphorus insoluble through formation of lead phosphorous compounds.13
That this actually occurs in the case of aluminum is proven by experiments in which aluminum acetate added to diets of test animals kept the blood phosphorus from rising regardless of ingested phosphates.14
The peripheral neuritis and paralysis of lead poisoning is therefore due to the same withdrawal of phosphorus from the tissues that aluminum salts accomplish. Since similar symptoms occur in beriberi and pellagra, it is obvious how bleached wheat flour in baking-powder biscuit form is a double insult to health, for not only is the vitamin B complex content refined out (any balance destroyed by bleaching gas), so that there is no possible nutritional value of vitamin nature left, but also we have the addition of a poison that aggravates the deficiency reactions, affording the greatest possible incentive for the development of disease.
It is of much interest to note that current literature is now offering references showing that vitamin E deficiency (a result of the use of white flour in place of whole wheat) causes [not only] heart disease, angina pectoris, and muscular dystrophies in human subjects but also sudden death from heart failure in cattle and muscular dystrophy in rabbits.15,16
It is evident that aluminum poisoning can be a definite contributor to our most prevalent cause of death, cardiovascular disease, and that vitamin deficiency and phosphorus deficiency are able partners. The general soil depletion of phosphorus and its diminishing content in all foodstuffs is a serious problem.
It seems to be up to us as individuals to protect our health by rigidly banning from our tables any product that fails to measure up to the obvious standards of unrefined and unprocessed natural fresh food. It is also the obligation and duty of the physician to warn his patient who comes to him in a state of partial starvation of the need for food reform and the fate of those who may be so indifferent as to put their trust in the propaganda of commercial interests who have the power to actually halt the enforcement of the law where it interferes with their business.
Summary and Conclusions
It is highly probable that a syndrome of symptoms of phosphorus and calcium deficiency can follow a long, continued intake of aluminum salts from aluminum cooking utensils, alum baking powders, or aluminum acetate in perspiration deodorants. Aluminum salts appear to rob other food elements of their phosphorus to form insoluble and nutritionally useless compounds, just as mineral oils rob the food elements and tissues in the intestinal tract of their vitamin A content.
Such serious disorders as ulcers of the stomach and duodenum, cardiovascular disease, heart failure, obesity, and varying degrees of paralysis of the sympathetic nervous system appear to be definite consequences of aluminum poisoning.
By Royal Lee, DDS. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research, Reprint 5, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, October 1946. Received for Publication September 5, 1946.
1. Ohio Ag. Exp. Sta. Bulletins 347, 455; J.A.M.A. 110:1507.
2. “A Discussion of the Forms of Blood Calcium.” Report No. 2, Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research, 1942.
3. Cantarow. Calcium Metabolism and Calcium Therapy, 2nd ed., p. 78. Lea & Febiger, 1933.
4. Hall, Ettinger and Banting. “An Experimental Production of Coronary Thrombosis and Myocardial Failure.” Canadian Med. Assn. J. 34:9–15, Jan, 1936.
5. Hausberger, F.X.. Z. mikroskop. anat. Forsch. 36, 231, 1934; Klin. Wochschr. 14, 77, 1935. Kure’, K., Oi, T., Okinaka, S. Klin. Wochschr. 16, 1789, 1937.
6. Moraczewski, W., and H. Jankowski. Biochem. Z. 293:186, 1937.
7. Snapper, I. Chinese Lessons to Western Medicine, pp. 160–169. Interscience Publishers, Inc., New York, 1941.
8. Morgan, Agnes Fay. Science, pp. 261–262, March 14, 1941.
9. Collings. Commercial Fertilizers, 3rd ed. Blakiston Co.
10. Smith, E.E. Aluminum Compounds in Food, p. 294. Paul B. Hoeber, 1928.
11. Nascher, I.L.. Geriatrics, 2nd ed., p. 94. P. Blakiston’s Son & Co. Nascher recommends the use of amorphous phosphorus to eliminate the pathological lime accumulations in the blood vessels in senile arteriosclerosis.
12. New York Med. J., p. 193, 1922. Dr. Barr of London is quoted as stating that heavy doses of orthophosphoric acid with small doses of calcium glycerophosphate are very valuable in cases of arteriosclerosis and that “a long course of decalcifying agents often has a wonderful effect in clearing the lime out of the vessels.”
13. Scharrer, Dr. Karl. Biochemie der Spurenelemente, p. 24. Berlin, 1941.
14. Jones, James H.. “The Relation of Serum Phosphates to Parathyroid Tetany.” Journal of Biological Chemistry, 115, 2:371–379, 1936.
15. A.B.F. Vogelsang, MD, Evan V. Shute, MD, Wilfred Shute, MD, Floyd Skelton, London, Ontario. Paper read before St. Thomas and East Elgin Medical Society, September, 1946. Report of discovery that wheat germ oil relieved angina pectoris.
16. Gullickson, T.W., and Calverly, C.E. “Cardiac Failure in Cattle on Vitamin E-free Rations.” Science, Oct. 4, 1946, p. 312.
Report No. 5
Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research
Note: Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research is a nonprofit, public-service institution, chartered to investigate and disseminate nutritional information. The attached publication is not literature or labeling for any product, nor shall it be employed as such by anyone. In accordance with the right of freedom of the press guaranteed to the Foundation by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the attached publication is issued and distributed for informational purposes.