A new study from a group of US scientists suggests that a diet high in copper may lead to a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
While several studies have suggested that copper could actually protect the brain, the new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that the brain struggles to get rid of the protein.
Humans receive copper in their diet from copper pipes, red meat, shellfish, fruits, and vegetables. The metal is an important part of our diets, but too much copper can have negative side effects.
Researchers at the University of Rochester in New York provided mice with varying levels of cooper and then examined the brain’s blood barrier.
The study found that mice who were fed more cooper in their water had a greater build-up of the metal in the blood vessels in the brain. Researchers found that higher cooper content affected the way in which the blood barrier functions, making it harder for the brain to remove the protein beta amyloid.
Alzheimer’s disease is at least partly blamed on increased plaque of amyloid in the dying brain.
The research suggests that over time the cumulative effect of too much copper is the systems inability to remove enough amyloid beta from the brain.
As more amyloid beta is introduced by copper consumption and the brain is unable to remove current levels of the protein the brain suffers from Alzheimer’s.
Chris Exley, professor of bioinorganic chemistry at Keele University has found the opposite to be true. According to the BBC his research “found evidence of lower total brain copper with aging and Alzheimer’s. [And] also found that lower brain copper correlated with higher deposition of beta amyloid in brain tissue.”
Exley admits that his own research still needs more proof and adds that “at the moment we would expect copper to be protective and beneficial in neurodegeneration, not the instigator, but we don’t know.”
With copper arriving in so many forms in or drinking water and foods, most researchers do tend to agree that taking supplements to add more copper into our diets is typically not needed.