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Don't throw away your pots and pans just yet.


No one doubt that the use of cadmium-coated cookware sold many years ago can produce almost instantaneous symptoms of food poisoning (within half an hour after eating foods contaminated by the cadmium). Nor is there any doubt that other older cookware containing lead is hazardous. Today, many users of nonstick pots and pans are concerned about the safety of scratched utensils, and even the old standby aluminum cookware is under question by some as researchers examine the role of aluminum in Alzheimer's disease. Lest you should feel safe only by cooking food over an open fire on a spit, we offer some answers about the safety of various kinds of cooking utensils.

For openers, have no fear of even badly scratched Teflon and similar coatings. Even if the stuff flakes off and gets into your food, the particles are able to pass through your intestinal tract intact without being absorbed. (Both the manufacturers and the FDA have thoroughly tested these products.) As for aluminum pots and pans (as well as the use of antiperpirants and antacids containing aluminum), the role of this metal in Alzheimerhs disease is still not understood.

Although many studies have shown aluminum's presence brains (and other nerve cells) of persons with various neurological diseases (including Alzheimer's), no solid evidence exists that the metal causes the disease. Instead, it might be that the disease simply causes aluminum to be deposited in the affected cells without having any effect on them. Because aluminum is teh third most common element in the earth's crust (after oxygen and silicon), it is found in almost everything we eat and drink. Yet it serves no known purpose in the human body and is thus normally excreted by the kidneys. Although some prefer to play to play it safe by avoiding the use of antiperspirants and antacids containing aluminum, even the most ardent aluminim-causes-Alzheimer's theorists do not advocate throwing away one's aluminum pots and pans.

On the other hand, iron cookware use over that of aluminum not only avoids the aluminum question but offers a couple of possible advantages. From the culinary point of view, holds heat better than aluminum and thus provides a more steady heat during the cooking process. In addition, some suggest that the use of iron cookware provides supplemental iron to the diet, given the fact that some foods, particularly such acidic ones as tomato sauce, are known to cause a considerable amount of iron to leach from the pots or pans in which they are cooked. Iron in this form may not be easily absorbed by the body, however, so its benefit is uncertain. Iron-rich foods such as legumes, lean meats, fish, and poultry are more of a sure thing.
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Title Annotation:cadmium, aluminum, etc. on cooking utensils
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Dec 1, 1990
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