08/20/2013

Too much copper linked to Alzheimer's

NEWS

Copper is an essential part of our diet, and can be found in tap water running through copper pipes, red meat, shellfish and fruits and vegetables. Previous research has even shown that copper may protect the brain from dementia. But, a new study in mice found that copper disrupted the blood-brain barrier, which acts as the brain's shield.

For the study, some of the mice were fed more copper in their water, which caused a build-up of copper in their blood vessels and brain. Researchers found that this build-up interfered with the way the barrier functioned and made it more difficult for the brain to get rid of amyloid beta. (The formation of amyloid beta plaques are a hallmark sign of Alzheimer's disease.) In addition, researchers found that copper led to more amyloid beta being produced. The scientists acknowledge that copper is key to a healthy body, but said people might want to think twice before taking copper supplements.

Previous studies have shown mixed results. One study done on human brains, in fact, suggested the opposite was true. That study looked at copper levels and amyloid beta in human brains, and found that lower copper levels correlated with aging and Alzheimer's, and that lower copper levels were linked to more amyloid beta in the brain tissue.

Researchers agree that more research is necessary. In the meantime, they say, people should not try to eliminate copper from their diets.

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