(NaturalNews) Copper is an essential dietary mineral that must be maintained at levels that are in proper balance with other essential dietary minerals like zinc. But having too much "free copper," also known as bio-unavailable copper, circulating in the blood may indicate, or even be the cause of, some serious health problems, including cognitive decline, neurodegenerative disease and Alzheimer's.
A 2008 study published in the journal Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care reveals some of the more serious adverse effects of having too much circulating free copper. Specifically with regard to Wilson's disease, Alzheimer's and other forms of neurodegeneration and cognitive decline, copper was found to play a major role in triggering the inflammation, autoimmunity and fibrosis linked to these and other diseases.
Researchers from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor uncovered data that suggests having too much free copper in the blood may be involved in actual disease pathogenesis, meaning free copper may be one of the primary pathways through which disease emerges and takes hold. Based on this assessment, the team focused on ways to eliminate excess copper from the body and thus mitigate both the presence and likelihood of disease.
A similar but unrelated study published two years later in Clinical Neurophysiology, the official journal of the International Federation of Clinical Neurophysiology, by researchers from the Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies in Italy spells this out even more clearly, differentiating between total copper levels and free copper levels, and their respective effects on neurodegeneration.
Not all copper is harmful, explains this study in full clarity, but rather just the free copper that is loosely transported by micronutrients in the body when it is not properly absorbed. Bioavailable copper, on the other hand, is absolutely critical for strong immunity, disease resistance, blood cleansing and other important functions -- copper itself, in other words, is not the enemy.
"Copper maintains mineral balance, thus a balanced pH with normal blood viscosity, by functioning as the primary antioxidant in the body," explains UnveilingThem.com. "Iron replaces copper in the blood and tissue proteins and accumulates in multiple locations of the body, causing destruction and accelerating aging. Bio-available copper must be replenished to restore health and longevity -- to repaid the DNA damage."
Too much free copper could be the result of Alzheimer's, not the cause
Copper, then, is not the problem -- it is an accumulation of bio-unavailable copper in the blood that is the problem. But what causes this? The two previously mentioned studies suggest that too much free copper is a cause of Alzheimer's and other forms of neurodegeneration, and thus must be mitigated through drugs or other methods. But other studies suggest the inverse, that neurodegeneration is a cause of too much free copper.
A 2011 study published in the International Journal of Alzheimer's Disease suggests that the bioavailability of dietary copper is thrown off kilter as a direct result of Alzheimer's, which puts the issue of copper toxicity into a whole different perspective. In other words, degenerative disease may prevent the body from using dietary copper, instead turning it into toxic free copper.
A good comparative illustration is the issue of high cholesterol and the prominent recommendation that people use statin drugs to lower it. Contrary to conventional thinking on the subject, too much circulating cholesterol does not mean that the cholesterol itself is harmful. It means that systemic inflammation is preventing that cholesterol from being properly utilized and absorbed, which means that dietary changes to stop that inflammation, not cholesterol-lowering drugs, are needed to address the problem.