This Supplement Could Harm Your Brain

Here’s a new finding about the cause of Alzheimer’s disease: Today, you probably consumed a toxin that can accumulate in your brain. If you don’t make an effort to avoid it, it can eventually set you up for serious memory problems as you age.

The toxin that’s scaring researchers is a metal that keeps the brain from eliminating toxic proteins called amyloid beta that are connected with Alzheimer’s disease. These proteins make up the “brain plaques” that you may have heard about. Unfortunately, most tap water in the U.S. contains this mineral and it’s even deliberately included in many multivitamins.

I’m talking about copper. It plays many important roles in the body’s physiology. But scientists now believe many of us are being exposed to too much. As a result, they think, our levels of this mineral are out of balance and may be harming brain tissue.

“It is clear that, over time, copper’s cumulative effect is to impair the systems by which amyloid beta is removed from the brain,” says Rashid Deane, Ph.D., a research professor in the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Department of Neurosurgery. “This impairment is one of the key factors that cause the protein to accumulate in the brain and form the plaques that are the hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.”

You’re Getting Copper From Sources You Never Think About

Copper is found in many foods. Red meat, shellfish and nuts as well as many fruits and vegetables contain copper. It’s also included in a variety of dietary supplements. Besides multivitamins and multi-minerals, it may be included in your zinc supplement — a common one that many men take for prostate health. Copper supports the metabolism of zinc.

Other sources include the water in your house, which travels through copper pipes in most homes and other buildings.

You need a small amount of copper to aid bone growth, nerve function, the creation of connective tissue and the secretion of hormones, but its presence in the brain interferes with the brain’s ability to get rid of toxins.

Is “Leaky Brain Syndrome” a New Disease?

Deane’s research1 shows that copper can foment a breakdown in the protective functions of the blood—brain barrier. This barrier is supposed to closely monitor and control what goes in and out of brain tissue.

When the blood—brain barrier is functioning normally, amyloid beta is removed from the brain by a protein called lipoprotein receptor-related protein 1 (LRP1). This protein lines the capillaries that supply blood to the brain. As blood flows through these tiny blood vessels, LRP1 picks up the type of amyloid beta found in brain tissue and instigates processes that take the amyloid beta into the blood supply and eliminate it from the body.

But when copper collects in capillary cells, it prevents this trash-removal process from taking place. Lab tests show that copper in the capillaries gradually causes the blood—brain barrier to become leaky. It starts to allow a growing amount of toxins into the brain.

Making matters worse, the copper also stimulates extra production of amyloid beta. This causes amyloid beta to clump together in networks among brain cells — called plaques — that grow so large, the brain’s elimination processes almost completely stop working. These plaques are the primary physical sign of Alzheimer’s disease. (Unfortunately, there’s no test at this point to detect the presence of the plaques, although blood tests and brain scans are reportedly in the works. Meanwhile, the only way to know is to open up the brain and look, and that is considered too drastic a step to diagnose whether a patient’s dementia is caused by Alzheimer’s disease or some other condition.)

How to Reduce Your Exposure to Copper2

  • Do not take a nutrition supplement that contains copper.
  • Before drinking tap water, run the water for 30 to 60 seconds to eliminate accumulated copper. You may also install a filtration system that takes copper out of your water.
  • Do not use hot water from the tap for cooking or drinking. Always use cold water and heat it on the stove.

  1. http://www.pnas.org/
  2. http://www.health.state.mn.us/