Just as plaque in your arteries can damage your heart, plaque in your brain can destroy your memories and cause Alzheimer’s disease. This plaque, called beta amyloid, acts like a magnet in your brain. Once it begins to develop, it starts attracting all sorts of metals.
This is bad news for your brain, as these metals can accelerate the damage of Alzheimer’s disease. And, if that weren’t bad enough, this magnetic plaque can attract and use any type of metal. This includes dangerous metals, such as mercury. But it also includes beneficial ones like iron and copper.
But there are very simple ways you can protect your brain against the ever-increasing damage caused by amyloid plaque.
A few weeks ago, I told you that brain abnormalities found in Alzheimer’s disease are caused by two problems. One is a buildup of the protein called beta amyloid. The buildup creates a plaque in your brain, which can wreak havoc on brain cells and circulation.
The other abnormality is when the finger-like projections of nerve cells, which allow those cells to talk to each other, get tied up into tangled masses (called neurofibrillary tangles). Studies show these tangles are to blame for most of the nerve cell death in Alzheimer’s.
But the newest studies seem to indicate that the buildup of beta amyloid initiates the destruction. In other words, one gets the destruction started (beta amyloid) and one does more damage (neurofibrillary tangles).
Recent studies have shown that beta amyloid is a metalloprotein, which accumulates zinc, copper, and iron deep within its folds. Scientists studying Alzheimer’s speculate that those bits of metal might be an important key to the damage caused by this dreadful disease. The good news, though, is that they may provide help for its treatment!
You see, copper, zinc, and iron can all react with oxygen. Oxygen is a natural, necessary component in our body’s production of energy. But the production of that energy comes at a price. Energy production also releases rogue compounds called free radicals, which you know are toxic. They damage genetic material, fats, and proteins. And free radical damage appears to be a significant component of Alzheimer’s disease and the formation of amyloid plaques. Copper can accelerate the production of these free radicals.
Isn’t Copper Good for Your Brain?
Just like your heart, your brain needs the right amount of particular nutrients to function properly. Too much – or too little – can negatively affect the way it works and lead to memory problems. Recently, several studies have come to light that explain why some people have difficulty remembering. These studies looked at how copper, iron, and zinc can affect brain function. They also help us understand how much of each mineral we need to have a healthy brain.
Blocking DNA Repair
We all have a little copper and iron in our bodies. In fact, they are two metals that are essential to our health. But when there’s too much of either, they trigger chemical reactions that produce reactive oxygen species (ROS).
According to Muralidhar Hegde, lead author of a review in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, “Reactive oxygen species cause the majority of the brain cell DNA damage that we see in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, as well as most other neurodegenerative disorders.” One way this occurs is by interfering with the body’s ability to repair DNA. So, high copper and/or iron generate chemicals that damage brain cells and significantly interfere with DNA repair enzymes. This is good news, because it means there’s something you can do to preserve your memory.
This study was the first to identify a natural solution to high levels of these metals. It discovered that a substance that binds to iron and copper can keep your levels low. It’s none other than curcumin, the active antioxidant ingredient in turmeric. This is a good reason to take curcumin every day.
If you’re taking the anti-inflammatory formula Reduloxin, you’re already getting this protective herbal ingredient. This supplement contains Meriva, the most powerful form of curcumin. Anyone who is concerned about getting dementia should take supplemental Meriva. And when you combine it with other anti-inflammatory herbs, it becomes even more valuable to protect against memory loss.
More Tips for Avoiding Damage to Your Brain
To keep iron levels down, make sure there’s none added to your multivitamin (unless you’re a menstruating woman, know that you’re anemic, or that you’re prone to anemia). Men and postmenopausal women don’t usually need to take iron supplements. In fact, taking iron can increase your risk for some cancers. Don’t cook acidic foods, such as tomatoes or lemon juice, in iron pots. Acids leach iron out of these pots.
One trick to lower iron absorption is to drink some black tea with a meal high in iron (like a big green salad or broccoli). Black tea contains a chemical that deactivates iron. So a lunch of a salad with a glass of iced tea is a perfect way to eat a meal high in antioxidants and low in iron.
The Copper/Zinc Connection
Whether you have Alzheimer’s or not, it’s vital you keep your copper and zinc in balance. When copper levels are high, zinc is often low, and zinc plays a major role in memory. It regulates communication in the hippocampus. And the hippocampus is where learning and memory processes occur. Decades ago, scientists noticed that most of the zinc in the brain was concentrated in the neurons of the hippocampus.
Zinc helps keep copper from accumulating in the brain. This is extremely important. One study that used cells from both mice and humans showed that copper can build up in the brain and disrupt the body's ability to clear away amyloid beta proteins before they form the plaques that are the hallmark Alzheimer's disease. For this study, Rashid Deane, a research professor in the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in the U.S., and his team gave mice trace levels of copper for three months.
They found the metal collected in the cell walls of the fine vessels that feed blood to the brain.
The copper collected in cells of the blood/brain barrier, which controls the substances that can pass in and out of brain tissue. By collecting copper in their membranes, the cells were just doing their job.
But the researchers found that with time, through the process of oxidation, the copper build up in the cell walls started to affect the ability of LRP1 to escort amyloid beta proteins out of the brain. They saw this happen in both mouse and human brain cells.
Copper Also Stimulated Plaque Formation
In a further experiment, they then examined the process in live mice bred to develop Alzheimer's disease. They found the cells responsible for maintaining the blood/brain barrier could not cope: they became leaky, probably with age and repeated damage from toxins.
Had they not been leaky, the cells would have trapped the copper in their cell walls. But in the Alzheimer's mice, the blood-borne metal was able to pass unhindered through the blood/brain barrier.
As it met with brain tissue, the leaked copper stimulated brain cells to increase their production of amyloid beta. The copper also had a direct effect on the toxic protein itself: it encouraged it to clump together and form the characteristic plaques of Alzheimer's disease.
Once amyloid beta forms these large clumps inside brain cells, the body's natural ways of eliminating it are overwhelmed and cannot cope. This could be how Alzheimer's starts and progresses.
In a final experiment, the team also found that copper led to inflammation of brain tissue, which may also speed up the breakdown of the blood/brain barrier and the subsequent build-up of Alzheimer's toxins. So this confirms just how important taking anti-inflammatory nutrients is to avoiding Alzheimer’s.
How Can You Slow the Damage Caused by Copper and Iron?
The easiest way to stop damage caused by copper is to make sure you have enough zinc. And there’s a simple test you can take in your home without a prescription to determine whether or not you need more zinc. It’s an oral zinc test. All you need is some zinc sulfate, such as Liquid Zinc Assay (which you can find online). To perform the test, put a teaspoon of the zinc sulfate in your mouth for 30 seconds. If there’s no taste, or if your mouth has a slight dry, mineral, furry, or sweet feel, you need more zinc. If it has an unpleasant taste, you have enough zinc. The more pleasant the taste, the greater the deficiency.
If you’re low, take 20-30 mg of zinc chelate a day and re-test monthly until the zinc tastes bad. Foods high in zinc include meats (more than fish), nuts, pumpkin seeds, whole grains, and legumes. So a vegetarian diet is more likely to cause high copper and low zinc.
To assess your copper, iron, and zinc levels, you can have a Tissue Mineral Analysis conducted. This hair analysis measures minerals and toxic metals and discusses environmental and dietary sources of all imbalances. Your health care practitioner may offer this test, which runs around $190. Or you can get it from Unikey (https://unikeyhealth.com/products/tissue-mineral-analysis).
You also need to make sure you’re not getting too much copper. There should be no more than 2 mg of copper in your multi. That’s all your body needs. High copper levels can come from your diet, IUDs, or from your drinking water – if the water is carried through copper pipes. Dietary copper is also high in soybeans and other legumes, as well as grains. So make sure you’re not eating too many of these foods.