Lifestyle

Jasarevic: Impact of copper toxicity

Alzheimer’s disease  is characterized by large plaques in the brain composed of amyloid-beta as well as neurofibrillary tangles.

Amyloid-beta plaques, when bound to copper, are a strong source of free radical damage.

Seniors are losing their golden years to dementia from Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

The prevalence of AD in our aging population is frightening, affecting 10, 20 and 30 per cent of those over the age of 60, 70 and 80 respectively.

Organic copper is food-based, tightly bound to food proteins, well metabolized by the liver, and safe.

Low levels of copper are essential for good health.

However, inorganic copper is a simple salt of copper, used to make wire, sheet metal, pennies and plumbing pipes.

Inorganic copper can bypass the liver and deposit directly into the blood stream as “free copper,” which is unsafe.

Inorganic copper is also found in nutritional supplements and largely leached into drinking water via copper plumbing.

Research in 2003 found the smallest addition of 0.12 parts per million (ppm) copper added to distilled drinking water greatly increased AD brain pathology and impaired the cognitive ability in rabbit models.

A 2006 follow-up study showed that copper added to drinking water increased brain levels of amyloid beta in both beagles and mice.

A further study in 2007 found that mice consuming copper-containing water of 0.12 ppm had 33 per cent more amyloid beta in their brains and twice as much copper in the cells lining the blood vessels of their brains, than the control group.

For reference, the Environmental Protection Agency allows 1.3 ppm copper in human drinking water, over 10 times the amount found to be toxic in animal AD models.

During reproductive years, adequate amounts of copper are important.

Copper is an essential trace mineral, is a cofactor for enzymes and antioxidants, is involved in structural stability of bone, cartilage, skin and tendons, and in the elasticity of lungs, blood vessels  and skin.

It is required for the synthesis of hemoglobin and in regulating cholesterol.

After age 50, however, “normal” levels of copper are too high and contribute to diseases of aging, including cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, ulcers and Alzheimer’s disease.

A 2010 study of AD patients found a mild cognitive impairment risk increase of 24 per cent for each free copper unit (mol/L) increment measured on a blood test.

Of course, there are other predisposing factors to AD, such as a high fat diet, high red meat consumption, genetics, zinc deficiency (zinc protects brain neurons from oxidative damage), etc., but a blood test should be considered for anyone with symptoms of mild cognitive impairment.

Ceruloplasmin (Cp) is a copper-containing protein secreted by the liver into the blood, accounting for 90 per cent of total plasma copper.

So a combined blood copper and blood Cp test is a good marker of body copper status.

The ultimate treatment for copper toxicity begins with removing copper-ingested sources.

Choose a multivitamin free of copper if you are over the age of 60, and consider chelation therapy—an intravenous therapy offered by most naturopathic doctors.

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