Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center led by Dr. Rashid Deane have found a direct correlation with the ingestion of environmental copper and the onset and progression of Alzheimer's disease according to their report in the Aug. 19, 23013, issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The scientists found that copper can accumulate in the brain and prevent the normal removal of the protein amyloid beta by inhibiting enzyme activity in the blood brain barrier. The effect was demonstrated in both mouse models and in humans.
The scientists added copper to the blood of normal mice over a three month period. The levels of copper were small and within the range of what people would be exposed to in an average environment.
The copper accumulated in the cell walls of the capillaries that feed the brain and prevented the action of a protein called lipoprotein receptor-related protein 1 (LRP1) that normally attaches to amyloid beta proteins and removes them from the brain.
Age and the accumulation of copper in the capillaries of the brain produced the characteristic physical effects and memory loss associated with Alzheimer's disease.
Copper is a necessary nutrient. Copper is essential for the formation of some enzymes, nerve conduction, bone growth, the formation of connective tissue, and hormone secretion.
The exposure of people to copper from water pipes, food supplements, and foods such as red meats, shellfish, nuts, and many fruits and vegetables may contribute to the development and progression of Alzheimer's disease, but the scientists indicate that the proper amount of copper needed for healthy life without the potential for the development of Alzheimer's disease is unknown at this time.