Effect of Copper in Developing Alzheimer’s disease

Copper

By Melissa Healy of LA Times

New studies have found that copper in amounts readily found in our drinking water, the foods we eat and the vitamin supplements we take likely plays a key role in initiating and fueling the abnormal protein build-up and brain inflammation that are hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.

While the mineral is important to healthy nerve conduction, hormone secretion and the growth of bones and connective tissue, a team of researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center suggested that too much of it may be a bad thing, and they set about to explore copper’s dark side.

What they found, said neuroscientist Rashid Deane, is “pretty scary”: A steady diet of copper, even at entirely allowable levels, breaks down the barrier that keeps unwanted toxins from entering the brain, and that it fuels an increase in production of beta-amyloid but impedes the performance of proteins that clear the stuff from the brain.

On top of that, Deane’s team found that copper accumulation in the brain causes inflammation in brain tissues. At low levels and for short durations, that may be a good sign that brain tissues are responding to the danger of excess beta-amyloid proteins and are trying to expel them, Deane said. In time, however, neuro-inflammation can overwhelm the brain and begin to damage cells, he added.

Copper is found in a wide range of the foods we eat, including red meat, shellfish, nuts and many fruits and vegetables, as well as in many vitamin supplements. It also leaches from copper pipes into the water we drink. While we take in copper from foods, it is most readily absorbed into the bloodstream in its “free” form, say researchers — when it is suspended in water.

The research, which lay out the case against a long-suspected culprit in Alzheimer’s disease, is published Monday in the journal PNAS.

Deane said that, in the absence of effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, his team’s findings suggest a way to prevent the memory-robbing disorder or slow it once it has taken hold. One drug candidate currently in Phase 2 trials — an agent that binds with copper molecules and escorts them out of the body — might well do that, said the study’s lead author. But even now, Deane said, consumers could be checking their vitamin supplements for copper and researching whether their water filters are equipped to remove copper from their drinking supply.  Click here to read the complete story.


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