Rashid Deane, a research professor at the University of Rochester in New York, claims that copper may be one trigger for the onset or exacerbation of Alzheimer’s disease. In a recently released study funded by funded by the Alzheimer’s Association, the National Institutes of Aging, and a pilot grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, his team found that copper accumulates in the brain and weakens the blood-brain barrier, allowing larger molecules to enter, accelerating the development of the amyloid beta plaques that seem to be the culprits in Alzheimer’s disease.
Copper is a necessary mineral for proper formation of melanin, bone, and connective tissue in the body, which people usually get enough of from a balanced diet. Copper is found in such foods as liver, fish, whole grains and beans. It is excreted from the body via normal bowel movements and urination. A copper deficiency can cause negative, albeit rare, consequences, and too much copper can be very toxic, as in Wilson’s disease. Excess copper can occur as the result of disease, or from drinking water with excessive copper in it, and from dietary supplements. Fortunately, there is a test called the “total copper serum test” that doctors use to see if copper levels are too high or too low.
Unfortunately, no one yet knows just how much copper is dangerous in the context of these new discoveries about its possible role in Alzheimer’s disease. Undoubtedly, there will be further research.
Having a conversation with your health care provider about the type of supplements you use, and the necessity for a varied and balanced diet is crucial. Concerns about any over consumption of copper from drinking water, since most households have copper piping, are legitimate. Spring water is one way to address that, although people are certainly not being advised to change their dietary habits prematurely. Those who wish to keep up with Alzheimer’s research can visit the Alzheimer’s Association research page: http://www.alz.org/research/overview.asp.
More on the research that was conducted by the team at the University of Rochester can be found at http://bit.ly/176x0KE.
Despite these advances in our knowledge of Alzheimer’s and the human brain, we still don’t know exactly how Alzheimer’s is triggered, or its exact cause, but in the meantime, there are things we can do to make life easier for those who suffer from the disease or from a related dementia. Often, the earlier we are aware that someone is suffering from memory difficulty, the more we can do, especially if they have another type of dementia, other than Alzheimer’s. For example, in last week’s column we discussed the implications of Vitamin B12 deficiency. There are other dementia-causing situations that are reversible (thyroid conditions, or infections), so any time memory is affected, a visit to the physician is warranted.
For information on Alzheimer’s disease, visit: http://www.alz.org/manh/. For community-based dementia services, caregiver support, or referral, contact SeniorCare Inc. at 978-281-1750 or toll free at 1-866-927-1050.
Anne Springer is the public relations director of SeniorCare Inc., Cape Ann’s local area agency on aging. To reach SeniorCare, call 978-281-1750.