(NaturalNews) There have been a number of studies published in recent years suggesting a correlation between excess buildup of certain dietary minerals and neurodegenerative disease, the implications of which are that some people with pre-existing health conditions may need to cut back on certain mineral-rich foods in order to maintain optimal health. One such study, published in the journal Biomedical Spectroscopy and Imaging, found that people with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of neurodegeneration tend to accumulate too much "free copper," or copper that is not properly absorbed by the body.
Researchers from the Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) in New York observed elevated levels of free copper in rats diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease (AD), some with levels up to 25 percent higher than those observed in healthy rats without degenerative disease. They did this using a special analysis technique known as synchrotron X-ray fluorescence microscopy, which involved mapping the levels of metal ions in the rats' brains, particularly in the amyloid plaques that are considered the hallmark of AD.
Based on their analysis, rats with pre-existing neurodegenerative disease tend to accumulate more toxic "free copper" than healthy rats, and this free copper appears to visibly bind with amyloid plaques, making the rats' degenerative conditions even worse. Interestingly, the same rats did not accumulate excess zinc or iron, both of which are known to help regulate and balance copper levels in the body.
"Since excess copper should not be 'free' in the brain to bind to the plaques, these data suggest that the cellular control of copper is altered in AD, which may lead to toxic reactions between free copper ions and neurons," commented Dr. Lisa M. Miller, Ph.D., a biochemist at BNL, about the study's findings.
High levels of unbound, free copper point to possible deficiency in bioavailable copper
Previous research conducted by Dr. Miller and her colleagues revealed similar phenomena in human AD patients, who were also observed to have elevated levels of free copper in their brains. Except in this previous case they also had excess amounts of iron and zinc, which suggests that neurodegeneration may be a causative factor in the accumulation of bio-unavailable minerals, which are technically toxic.
"The increase in iron may be a reflection of changes in metalloprotein content and metal storage within the brain that is not well understood," adds Dr. Miller.
Metalloproteins, of course, are responsible for binding copper and other minerals and transforming them into bioavailable form, meaning usable form. When these proteins are lacking or absent, or when health conditions are not ideal, minerals like copper, zinc and iron that are otherwise beneficial in a very narrow range of efficacy can quickly become toxic, in this case building up in the brain.
"To avoid these toxic effects, [copper] must be bound to the binding proteins, ceruloplasmin and metallothionine," explains Theresa Vernon, L.Ac., about how copper is meant to be assimilated in a healthy body. "These proteins can become deficient due to impaired adrenal and liver function which allows free copper to build up. It can have a toxic effect (similar to other heavy metals) on the body and mind and it is a contributor to many chronic illnesses and mental disturbances."