Overweight people have more aluminium in their bodies

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Researchers at Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN) have discovered that the levels of aluminium found in the hair and urine of obese people is higher than average.

One hypothesis is that aluminium can affect metabolism and provoke obesity. The article was published in Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology.

There are more than two billion obese people on the planet. The main reason for this is overeating and a sedentary lifestyle, although other factors, such as genetic predisposition and environmental conditions, can also push a person towards being overweight.

Studies show that microelements that enter the body can play a role. Mercury, cadmium, lead, as well as tin compounds are the leading metals that can affect the weight of an individual. Aluminium is also considered a toxic metal, that can cause inflammation and oxidative stress in cells. That is why doctors from the group of Anatoly Skalny, head of the Department of Medical Elementology at RUDN University, decided to study if there is a connection between this metal and excess weight.

The research involved 205 people with increased body mass index (BMI) and 206 people with normal weight in a control group. Generally, if the BMI of a person exceeds 30, then a person is believed to be overweight. In the control group, BMI averaged 22.5, and 33.3 in the experimental group.

Each participant of this study was asked if they suffer from hypertension, diabetes, atherosclerosis, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, or have bad habits, whether they live close to a source of metal emissions, and if they have metal implants. Then, urine and hair samples were taken from all participants and analysed using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), a method that allows detecting even miniscule amounts of chemical elements in samples.

The average levels of aluminium in the hair and urine of overweight people were higher than in the control group members: by 31% and 46%, respectively. Alternatively, no correlation between the metal content and hypertension, atherosclerosis, and other diseases has been observed. The association between increased aluminium and excess weight was observed only if it was found in urine, meanwhile the relation between the increased BMI and aluminium in the hair was not statistically significant, that is, it could have been a product of random deviations.

RUDN University scientists have concluded that the aluminium content in the body indeed increases in individuals with obesity. It remains unclear, however, what comes first: it is both possible that people with obesity simply consume a lot of aluminium with food and that aluminium changes the metabolism and that leads to obesity. Anatoly Skalny and his colleagues are planning further research to find answers to these questions.

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