What causes Alzheimer’s? How about Copper?
First This: The consensus among researchers is that if you have one or more parent or close family member with Alzheimer’s disease, you are generally considered to be at greater risk for developing the disease. One gene in particular called ApoE4 is related to an increase in your likelihood of getting Alzheimer’s disease. Like all risk factors, a family history may or may not lead to the development of the disease.
About Copper: Research suggests copper that enters the body at levels encountered in todays average diet may lead to Alzheimer's disease - by reducing the body's ability to clear toxic proteins in the brain, and by encouraging the clumping of those proteins in the brain.
One study led by Rashid Deane, a research professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) indicated that copper can build up in the brain and disrupt the body's ability to clear away amyloid beta proteins before they form the plaques that are the hallmark of the disease (more on that in a later post). In the study, trace amounts of copper were given to mice for three months. They found the metal collected in the cells walls of the fine vessels that feed blood to the brain.
The cells that the copper collected in are an important part of the brain's defense mechanism, the so-called blood/brain barrier, which controls the substances that can pass in and out of brain tissue.
With time the copper built up in the cell walls and started to affect the ability of LRP1 (a protein which helps neurons function) to escort amyloid beta proteins out of the brain, something Bad when it comes to a risk of Alzheimer’s disease. They saw this happen in both mouse and human brain cells.
Further studies found that copper led to inflammation of brain tissue, which may also speed up the breakdown of the blood/brain barrier and the subsequent build up of Alzheimer's toxins.
The levels of copper the researchers used in their experiments were trace amounts, about one-tenth of that set by standards for water quality from the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Is any copper in the body a bad thing?
These studies are not suggesting people change their diets or intakes of copper on the basis of these findings, which they say should be interpreted with caution. The body needs copper, it is an essential metal. The effects shown in this study are due to exposure over a long period, and the key is getting the balance between too much and too little. Here is a link to an interesting report on National Public Radio’s Science Friday regarding this subject:
NPR - Study Correlates Copper Intake and Alzheimer's in Mice : Science Friday - August 23, 2013
Next time - What causes Alzheimer’s Part II – Aluminum
Thanks for reading~ Will