Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Copper and Alzheimer’s Relationship: Enemy or Friend?


A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan reveals that copper pipes should not be used for supplying drinking water, as a building up of the metal in the body increases the risk of Alzheimer’s, heart diseases and diabetes in people over the age of 50.

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According to the study published in the American Chemical Society’s Toxicology journal, traces of copper from the pipes mixes with the tap water consumed by people, and since our bodies are unable to process the metal, it simply accumulates over time resulting in major health problems, such as, Alzheimer’s in later age.

George J Brewer, who led the study points out that Alzheimer’s and heart diseases are only worsened by excess copper and iron, with such toxicities posing a looming public health problem in the ageing process, including ageing diseases.

As well, Brewer also warns people with a high intake of copper lose their brain function at over thrice the normal rate, if their diet comprises of a relatively high fat diet. The researchers also advise people over 50-years to refrain from taking vitamin and mineral pills containing cooper and iron, including reducing their meat consumption, as also avoiding drinking water from copper pipes.

The similar results were received by the researches, made by Larry Sparks, at the Sun Health Institute in Sun City, Arizona, and Bernard Schreurs, at West Virginia University. They confirmed that copper may increase the growth of the protein clumps in the brain that are a trademark of Alzheimer's disease.

Doing their research on rabbits, researchers first noticed that the rabbits they use to model Alzheimer's disease developed fewer plaques in their brains when they drank distilled water rather than tap water. These insoluble plaques, generated in the rabbits via a high-cholesterol diet, are a trademark of the degenerative illness. The copper drinking rabbits also suffered dramatically poorer memories in complex tests.

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Not an Enemy, Not a Friend

Researchers in Germany, led by Drs. Thomas Bayer and Gerd Multhaup, prominent neuroscientists, have shown in their recent study that patients with mild AD who were given daily oral doses of copper for 12 months displayed no significant differences in their condition. That is, the patients who took the copper supplementation, up to 8 mg daily, showed neither improvement nor progression of AD. It should be noted that the US adult recommended daily allowance (RDA) for copper is 0.9 mg/day.

The clinical trial contained 68 patients, both male and female, with an average onset age of AD of 67. The phase II double-blind clinical trial divided the group into those receiving the copper supplementation and those receiving a placebo. The study demonstrates that the copper was well-tolerated.  Both groups of patients displayed no clinically significant differences in vital signs, physical examination, blood tests, or biochemical analyses.

The important conclusions of this clinical trial, for copper and AD, are that 
1) The long-term oral intake of 8 mg copper can be excluded as a risk factor for AD;
2) The long-term oral intake of copper is well-tolerated by AD patients; and
3) Copper intake has no effect on the progression of the AD.


Based on the researches, some of which were presented earlier, copper was postulated to be a possible risk factor in the development of Alzheimer's disease. However, other studies have completely opposite results, concluding that copper may reduce significantly the development of the disease.

Two recent studies, one by Exley and another by Jiang, both seem to point to the conclusion that copper reduces plaque build-up in the brain. This plaque is more specifically a clumping of the amyloid beta, a peptide present in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.  An earlier study from the Department of Psychiatry at the Saarland University Medical Center found lower levels of copper in post-mortem Alzheimer’s patients. Another study, by Bayer and Multhaup, found a positive correlation between copper levels and scores on an Alzheimer’s specific cognitive processing test.  The results support the notion of a mild copper deficiency in AD patients. All these data might suggest that there is a relationship between copper deficiency and Alzheimer’s disease, but it is too soon to jump to that conclusion. It is possible that an increased uptake of dietary copper may therefore be therapeutically relevant.


You may be confused by this post the same way I was confused by reviewing all information available for the causal relationship between Copper and Alzheimer’s. Let’s say, that the research data is still not conclusive at the moment, so the wait-and-see approach should be applied to get better scientific confirmation for one or another theory.

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