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Copper & Alzheimer’s Disease: Clearing Up Confusion

Copper, Your Cerebrum, and The Truth About Brain Function & Mental Health

Copper_chaptergraphic9_brainhealthThe first evidence for the essential role copper plays in the human body was obtained in 1928. When rats were kept on an iron-free milk diet, they developed severe anemia. Today, we know that copper is absolutely essential for life. No other metal can replace it. Fortunately, severe deficiency of this metal is rare and is observed mostly in experiments. However, even marginal copper deficiency can be dangerous and have long term consequences.


Still there is much confusion and misinformation on copper's role in mental health and brain function. Let's review the truth about copper and your brain:


Brain tissue is exceptionally rich in copper and for a good reason. First, brain health and safety depends on the antioxidant enzyme Cu,Zn-SOD. This enzyme protects it against aggressive free radicals of oxygen, which brain cells—highly metabolically active cells—produce in abundance. Faulty SOD due to insufficient copper can have dire consequences, instantly increasing oxidative brain damage. Besides this, copper is essential for a number of other brain enzymes that are involved in the making of important nerve mediators and hormones (Lutsenko et al 2010).


Several neurological conditions have been associated with copper deficiency. Among them is Alzheimer’s disease that plagues not only America’s seniors, but recently has began to manifest itself at earlier and earlier ages: 40s-50s.


Copper’s role in Alzheimer’s has long puzzled researchers. In this condition there is focal accumulation of an amyloid beta protein, which traps copper and other metal ions. Only recently has it been discovered that copper deficient brains become prone to beta-amyloid accumulation (Hung et al 2009). Another study demonstrated that copper deficiency increased cell secretion of amyloid-beta. The exact mechanism of this paradox is not yet fully understood, but it is clear that copper deficiency may increase brain’s susceptibility to Alzheimer’s (Cater et al 2008).


Today, there is more and more evidence that copper deficiency in the diet (as well as an excess of zinc) may be the leading cause of Alzheimer’s disease (Klevay 2008).


Another neurological symptom of copper deficiency is myelopathy or “human swayback”—a disease similar to that which occurs in sheep grazing on Australian soil lacking copper. Its symptoms include spastic gait or foot dragging and loss of coordination (Kumar 2006).


It is also interesting to note that neurological symptoms often follow bariatric surgery for obesity, which reduces absorption of copper in the intestine. These symptoms may range from neuropathy to encephalopathy and sometimes are irreversible (Kazemi et al 2010).


Read more about COPPER: Your Body's Protective Anti-Aging Metal at:



Dr. Loren Pickart who has a BA in Chemistry and Mathematics from the University of Minnesota and a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of California, San Francisco is dedicated to the research and further discussion of biochemistry, science, and health in all its applications.


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  • Copper_chaptergraphic9_brainhealth: Copper Deficiency and Alzheimer's Disease
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