Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a devastating disease of the central nervous system and affects approximately 1 in 1000 people in the Netherlands. The cause of MS is unknown and probably includes genetic and environmental factors, as well as lifestyle choices. There is no cure for MS and current therapies are limited and focus primarily on the symptoms of the disease.
We at Keele University have been interested in a link between human exposure to aluminum and MS since our research showed that affected people have an unusually high body load of aluminum. We demonstrated that individuals with relapsing remitting MS (RRMS) and secondary progressive MS (SPMS) secrete significant amounts of aluminum in the urine (Exley et al., 2006). This, we thought, an unexpected finding led us to speculate whether aluminum could play a role in MS? One indication that this may have played a role was the consistent observation in animal models of aluminum poisoning that myelin is a preferred target for aluminum in the brain. Because myelin degradation is an important factor in the progression of MS in humans, we have hypothesized that human exposure to aluminum played a role in the disease.
We have designed a small clinical study to further test our observation that people with MS have a high body load of aluminum and we have included a prospective therapeutic element in the study. We had previously demonstrated that regular drinking of silicon-rich mineral water was an effective and non-invasive therapy for removing aluminum from the body.
Would it also be effective in helping remove aluminum from the body of individuals with MS? Neither the research councils nor the charities of the UK Member States were willing to fund our trial, so we approached Spritzer, a Malaysian mineral water company, and they came together with the ACORN plan of Keele University to support the trial as part of a doctorate.
We have completed the trial by the end of 2015 and the results are now reported in the journal EBioMedicine. The test ran over 24 weeks. During the first 12 weeks (referred to as the control period) we simply measured urine excretion of aluminum and silicon in 15 people with SPMS. We then continued these measurements for the next 12 weeks (referred to as the treatment period) during which time all individuals drank at least 1L of mineral-rich mineral water (Spritzer) daily. The results of the trial are unambiguous, both to show that people with MS have a high body load of aluminum and to show that regular drinking of Spritzer has helped remove aluminum from their bodies.
Although none of the participants suffered recurrences during the 24-week trial, this period is too short to know whether they have benefited from drinking the mineral-rich mineral water. However, we now know that people with MS have too much aluminum in their bodies and, therefore, if aluminum contributes to their disease, regular drinking of silicon-rich mineral water can be a much-needed, simple, non-invasive, and effective therapy for people with MS.
Exley C, Mamutse G, Korchazhkina O, Pye E, Strekopytov S, Polwart A & Hawkins C (2006) Increased urinary excretion of aluminum and iron in multiple sclerosis. Multiple Sclerosis 12, 533-540.
Christopher Exley PhD FRSB