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Posted March 8, 2010: by Bill Sardi
It was November 3, 1906, at a medical meeting in Germany, when Dr. Alois Alzheimer first described a patient named “Augusta” who, at age 51, exhibited abnormal mental, language and behavior problems. Upon her death, the patient’s brain was autopsied and Dr. Alzheimer described a rare and “a peculiar disease of the cerebral cortex.” Accumulation of a form of plaque, now called beta amyloid, characterizes this disease. Today about half of the current 85-plus population exhibits these same tangled, shrunken tissues in their brain that Dr. Alzheimer first observed over 100 years ago.
Epidemiologists, medical scientists who search for the causes of disease in human populations, have been perplexed for decades over the cause of Alzheimer’s disease — the early onset (40s and 50s) of memory-impairment due to abnormal changes in the brain, compared to senile dementia which occurs later in life.
For heretofore unexplained reasons, Alzheimer’s disease is rare, even nonexistent, in some rural undeveloped lands like India and Africa. Alzheimer’s disease appears to be a disease of modern civilization. This suggests an environmental rather than an inherited origin.
Examination of a laboratory experiment, conducted in 2003, may provide an answer to the origin of the buildup of beta amyloid plaque in the brain.
Researchers were puzzled. They were in the middle of an investigation using laboratory mice to determine the cause of undesirable beta amyloid plaque buildup in these animal brains. The experiment clearly showed that a cholesterol-amplified diet produced a striking increase in brain plaque in these animals which resulted in a decline in their ability to perform certain tasks. But when the laboratory was suddenly moved to a second location, the results of the experiment couldn’t be repeated.
The researchers scratched their heads. Their attention was finally drawn to the difference in drinking water for the animals in each laboratory. In the first lab, tap water was provided. In the second lab, distilled water was in use. The researchers were able to determine that copper in tap water markedly induced beta amyloid plaque in the brain of lab mice.
Alarm bells were going off inside the minds of these researchers because the copper level in the laboratory tap water was ten-times lower than what is allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency! (Copper levels in laboratory tap water ranged from 0.06 to 0.21 parts per million versus the 1.3 parts per million EPA limit.)
More alarm bells go off when one considers the fact that eighty percent of homes in the U.S. have copper water pipes.
Oddly, no effort has been made to limit copper in drinking water or to remove (chelate — “key-late”) it.
PET scans revealed beta-amyloid plaque in the brains of three Alzheimer’s disease patients (left) and three normal controls (right). The yellow indicates high uptake of a label that targets beta-amyloid plaque, and the red indicates medium uptake. (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)
Inaction by public health authorities is unconscionable given that Dr. Martha Morris and colleagues discovered a link between dietary fats and high copper intake with accelerated mental decline among human adults. Dr. Morris’ study showed that Americans who consume high-fat, high trans-fat diets combined with a high intake of copper experience the most rapid decline in their mental faculties, equivalent to 19 years of brain aging in a 6-year period! You are talking about people in this category having the limited brain function of a 90-year-old at the age of 60! This is three-fold accelerated loss of mental acuity.
We’re not talking about mice in a laboratory any longer. This is for real.
Here is the kicker. The people in the group with the highest intake of copper were primarily obtaining excess copper from their dietary supplements! It wasn’t just their water. They were doing themselves in by taking vitamin pills they thought were healthy for them!
Dr. George W. Brewer of the University of Michigan Medical School, says “These data are frightening! Ten of millions of people are taking copper supplements and in my view are running the risk of poisoning themselves.”
More recently researchers found that genetically altered mice are less prone to accumulate toxic amyloid brain plaque because they accumulate less copper, iron and calcium within beta amyloid. This confirms the copper connection to Alzheimer’s disease.
What has been demonstrated is that copper, an essential mineral required to make red blood cells and to synthesize collagen, damages a cholesterol protein (low-density lipoprotein receptor) which is responsible for the removal of amyloid plaque from the brain. Essentially copper hardens and prevents removal of beta amyloid. Rather than employ drugs to slow down the formation of beta amyloid plaque, researchers now suggest redirection to strategies that promote the excretion of beta amyloid.
Because cholesterol was involved, the research community appears to have run off in a misdirected fashion to prove anti-cholesterol statin drugs might quell the growing epidemic of Alzheimer’s disease.
However, the initial enthusiasm to use statin drugs to prevent Alzheimer’s disease has been dampened by the lack of evidence in controlled human trials. Large-sized studies, while demonstrating a decline in circulating cholesterol numbers with the use of statin drugs, showed no significant decline in mental impairment.
More disturbing is a report showing that reduction of cholesterol production in the brain of mice does not affect Alzheimer’s disease, but does prolong their life. Good God, what we have here is the prospect of creating walking zombies, mindless human beings, who achieve longevity but have no quality of life. This appears to be the current state of affairs. The human race is being preserved just for the sake of having more years to take drugs!
Even more perplexing to researchers is that both high and low circulating levels of copper and cholesterol have been implicated in Alzheimer’s disease. Circulating levels of copper and lead are not indicative of what is occurring in the brain.
The question is, since this connection between copper and brain plaque was initially made in 2003, why haven’t public health authorities done something about this, and what can individuals do today to remedy the problem?
Avoid multivitamins that provide copper or iron. (OK for growing children and pregnant mothers.)
Reduce fatty food intake, particularly meat, which is a rich source of both fat and copper, and trans fats (hydrogenated fats), largely found in baked goods and processed foods. Safe sources of copper are nuts, like almonds, and cocoa powder. Copper should only be limited to full-grown males and menopausal females, as copper is needed for growth, collagen and red blood cell production among growing children and child-bearing females.
Copper levels should be no more than 0.01 parts per million. Geographical areas where copper is anticipated to be high in tap water will be where copper minds are found. This would be Michigan, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico. Copper levels may be high elsewhere and the only way to know is to check with your local water supplier. Do not rely upon the EPA standard, which is ten-times higher than what is needed to induce plaque formation in the brain.
To determine the copper content of your drinking water, the Environmental Protection Agency offers an online source (click here).
If copper at any level of concentration exists in your tap water, it may be wise to obtain a counter-top or in-water-line reverse osmosis water purification system. Or distilled water can be purchased.
How to detect the problem
A major problem is that, up till now, there has been no reliable blood test that can be performed at the earliest sign of Alzheimer’s, when symptoms are mild, to accurately determine whether its cause is poor circulation, inadequate nutrition, medication related, or involves a particular aging process.
However, researchers now think they have a blood test which may reliably be used to indicate risk for Alzheimer’s disease. It is the ratio of copper in blood plasma to copper bound to its transport protein (ceruloplasmin). First-degree relatives of Alzheimer’s patients might be wise to undergo this simple blood test. Doctors can be directed to this report published in the journal Brain Research. An explanation for doctors as to how to gauge risk among individuals is also provided in the after notes of this report.
Zinc supplements in the form of zinc acetate or gluconate have been recommended to reduce circulating copper levels. Zinc competes with copper and generally has a normalizing effect. Dr. George W. Brewer suggests 25 milligrams of zinc taken twice a day (50 mg total) in the form of oral tablets would be appropriate, with about a 3-month period before returning for another blood test. The problem here is that zinc tablets are likely to raise blood serum cholesterol numbers, and this is likely to cause undue alarm. Despite the fact cholesterol reduction has never been shown to reduce coronary heart disease mortality rates, the cholesterol theory of heart disease is so ingrained into Americans, and so staunchly supported by physicians, that it may be difficult to get Americans to try zinc supplements. Zinc supplementation greater than 50 mg per day appears to cause a drop in HDL (“good” cholesterol, with little effect upon other cholesterol number among healthy adult males. Another study shows 30 mg of daily supplemental zinc has no detrimental effect to healthy males. The provision of supplemental zinc and copper together appears to result in no significant change in cholesterol numbers.
A more intriguing approach to prevent beta amyloid plaque accumulation in the brain would be to chelate (attach to) metallic minerals such as copper, but also iron, cadmium, lead, aluminum, mercury and others. All these metals are involved in the onset of beta amyloid accumulation. The theory of metal chelation has gone from theoretical to practical with the discovery that a copper-chelating drug, Clioquinol, decreased beta amyloid plaque by 49% in the brain of laboratory animals.
Metallic-metal chelating molecules in green tea, pomegranate, grape seed (cyanidins), blueberry, ginkgo leaf, turmeric (curcumin), grape skin (resveratrol, quercetin, catechins), green tea, cranberry, milk thistle (sibilin), are documented to reduce beta amyloid formation in animal studies. Furthermore, calcification is another complicating factor, which can be dissolved with bran (rice bran IP6). An iron/copper-free multivitamin which includes these natural molecules would comprise a formidable defense against the accumulation of age-related beta amyloid in the human brain. The following molecules should be incorporated into the daily diet and supplement regimens.
References of published abstracts involving beta amyloid reduction with the following natural molecules can be viewed by clicking on the following links:
Most drugs for Alzheimer’s disease work no better than inactive placebo pills, produce unwanted side effects and even the earlier demise of the patient. Given that FDA-approved drugs for Alzheimer’s disease (tacrine, donepezil, rivastigmine, galantamine, memantine) are disappointing, it is imperative that families of victims of this disease employ alternative strategies. However, it is unlikely any medications of herbal molecules will be effective without elimination of inorganic copper and iron from the diet and food supplements.
It is a horrifying thought that the modern convenience of copper-plumbed tap water is a chief culprit in the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Copper from foods did not induce the accumulation of beta amyloid plaque in laboratory animals. It was only when the copper emanated from tap water or food supplements, where it loosely bound and easily absorbed, that the beta amyloid problem appears. How long will modern society allow this scourge to continue unabated? Prevention is the best cure.
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