Aluminium is found naturally in foods and beverages, but levels increase notably during processing, packaging, storage, and cooking, as a consequence of its presence in food additives and the wide use of aluminium utensils and vessels. Dietary intake of Al was estimated in 2 population groups in southern Spain (families and university students) in a duplicate diet sampling study. Diets were sampled for 7 consecutive days, and Al was determined in acid-mineralized samples with electrothermal atomization-atomic absorption spectrometry (ETA-AAS). Mean values for Al intake were 2.93 and 1.01 mg/d in families and students, respectively, ranging from 0.12 to 10.00 mg/d. Assuming an average adult weight of 60 kg, the mean dietary exposures to aluminium were 0.34 and 0.12 mg/kg body weight/week in these groups, which amounted to 17% and 6% of the 2 mg/kg body weight estimated as the tolerable weekly intake by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives. Bioaccessibility of dietary Al tested with in vitro studies ranged from 0.30 to 17.26% (absorbable fraction). The highest aluminium intakes were observed in subjects consuming diets with a low adherence to the Mediterranean diet, which were associated to high consumption of processed and canned food. On the contrary, subjects consuming diets with a high adherence to the Mediterranean diet patterns showed the lowest Al intakes. The present findings are useful for giving both a reliable estimate of total aluminium dietary intake and tolerable intake levels according to usual dietary habits.
Aluminium exposure is associated to toxicity in the organism. As dietary habits change frequently, periodical reassessment and additional studies of aluminium intake and bioaccessibility in meals are advisable, especially because of the growing popularity and increasing consumption of processed foods in the average everyday diet. Results of this study are useful for monitoring food and identifying trends with the purpose of designing effective food safety programmes.