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Researchers argue over whether dietary copper contributes to Alzheimer's

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 20th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A battle is now raging among researchers who hope to break the code as to what causes Alzheimer's. One study carried out by researchers in the U.S. argues that dietary copper - found in much of what we eat, is a contributing factor in developing Alzheimer's. Other researchers vehemently disagree, saying that dietary copper is essential for nutrition and health.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - These advocates point to separate studies where dietary copper has been found to protect the brain.

A recent study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, however, argues that high levels of copper leaves the brain struggling to get rid of a protein thought to cause the dementia.

In a study conducted on mice, a team at the University of Rochester in New York suggests that copper interfered with the brain's shielding. These laboratory mice were fed more copper. Their water held a greater build-up of the metal in the blood vessels in the brain.

The team concluded that this interfered with the way the barrier functioned and made it harder for the brain to get rid of a protein called beta amyloid.

"It is clear that, over time, copper's cumulative effect is to impair the systems by which amyloid beta is removed from the brain," lead researcher Dr Rashid Deane said.

"It's a double whammy of increased production and decreased clearance of amyloid protein.

"Copper is a very essential metal ion and you don't want a deficiency and many nutritious foods also contain copper."

However, he said taking supplements may be "going overboard a bit."

Others point out that copper is a vital part of our diet and necessary for health. Tap water coming through copper pipes, red meat and shellfish as well as fruit and vegetables are all sources of dietary copper.

Professor of bioinorganic chemistry at Keele University Chris Exley said there was "no true consensus" on the role of copper in Alzheimer's disease.

"In our most recent work we found evidence of lower total brain copper with ageing and Alzheimer's. We also found that lower brain copper correlated with higher deposition of beta amyloid in brain tissue," Exley said.

"He said at the moment we would expect copper to be protective and beneficial in neurodegeneration, not the instigator, but we don't know.

"The exposure levels used mean that if copper is acting in the way they think it does in this study then it must be doing so in everyone."

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