Copper, Zinc and Alzheimer's

February 16, 2015

Balancing Zinc and Copper 

Reference: Brewer, Inter Jr of Alzheimer’s 

 Just about 50% of us are going to have Alzheimer’s when we get to age 85. Pleasant thought, isn’t it? As baby boomers boom, the number of folks with cognitive decline is skyrocketing.   Want to be part of that?   Of course not! So read this article. 

 How do we get in trouble with copper?   We have a lot of it in our environment. Most homes have copper piping. Copper leaches out of that. (In fact, there was no copper piping in America prior to WW 2.  And Alzheimer's was rarely described.  Countries that don't use copper pipes have less Alzheimer's.). We take vitamin pills and other supplements. The copper in our piping is an organic salt that acts differently than what is in foods and vegetables, where it is organically bound. It goes directly into our blood copper supply where it has a bunch of bad effects: it contributes to a decline in cognition and is generally found to be elevated in Alzheimer’s. 

 Along with copper being elevated, zinc is lower in Alzheimer’s.   Zinc and copper seem to have an interesting relationship with one another. The more you have of one, the lower the other. But that’s what Brewer demonstrated in this week’s article.   His group took 29 folks with Alzheimer’s and compared them to 29 controls. No one was taking any supplements.   Now young folks have zinc levels around 100 μgm/dL.   As we age, it naturally declines so that the control group in this study was at 83 μgm/dL. The Alzheimer’s group was at 76 μgm/dL. That’s a lot lower. 

 Zinc plays a critical role in the brain. It calms down the excitation brought about by the neurotransmitter glutamate.   Glutamate can become toxic and cause so much firing that neurons can actually die from too much of it. That is thought to be the means by which MSG damages brains and accounts for some of the symptoms of “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome”.   Zinc may also play a calming role in that it turns off the protein called calcineurin.  Calcineurin activity is high in Alzheimer’s patients, so being uninhibited is terrible. 

 With that information in hand, Dr. Brewer did a treatment trial of Alzheimer’s patients, and zinc. They concocted a formulation of slow-release zinc and gave it in a randomized fashion to Alzheimer’s patients.   Their study has some nuance in it as to age and severity of the Alzheimer’s, but as a general rule, the treated patients improved over the untreated to a level of statistical significance. This is huge.  

 It’s not the only or even the whole story with Alzheimer’s. It’s part of the picture.   But it’s one you can pay attention to throughout your life. Part of your data dashboard should be to have your copper and zinc levels measured and understood.     We want your zinc level to be at least 90, 100 would be better. Your copper should be below within 10% of your zinc.   

WWW. What will work for me?   I don’t know the whole story. My home has copper piping. I’m going to check my levels.   I take zinc as a supplement already but I’ve never measured myself. I did this article just to help me learn. Follow and read the hyperlinks above.   Read the material yourself.   If no one else will check you, come see me. If cognitive decline is an issue for you, come see me sooner.     (Zinc 88, Copper 120 - too high)

 Pop Quiz

  1. Zinc levels naturally decline as you age? T or F                    Answer;True
  1. Copper levels are higher in people with copper pipes in their homes. T or F.      Answer:  True
  1. A high copper level is associated with brain chemistry trouble in Alzheimer’s. T or F.    Answer:  Bingo
  1. A low zinc level is also associated with brain chemistry trouble in Alzheimer’s.   T or F         Answer:  Double bingo
  1. Giving zinc to Alzheimer’s patients has been shown to stabilize and reverse some measures of cognitive decline? T or F                     Answer:  That’s it!
  1. Getting your zinc and copper levels measured and followed might be an important part of your personal “data dashboard”.                        Answer:  It will be for me from hereon out.