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New study links excessive copper intake to Alzheimer's

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Copper is an important aspect of proper nutrition, and vital for us to maintain a healthy body. But upstate researchers have concluded too much copper in our diet could be a contributing factor in the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Tap water coming through copper pipes, fruits, vegetables, red meat and nuts; these are all sources of copper that we consume on a daily basis.

But, University of Rochester researchers have shown that high levels of copper can interfere with the brain’s ability to get rid of a particular protein linked to dementia.

Lead researcher Dr. Rashid Deane says copper also leads to the increased production of this protein, resulting in a buildup in the brain. He says this is one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.

Deane says, in light of the findings, people definitely shouldn’t cut copper from their diet. But, we may need to be more conscious of our consumption, and pay attention to things like supplements.

“Copper is in that category now, it’s too much of a good thing can be bad, and that’s a possibility with the case here. So it’s not a case of strip it all out, it’s probably a case of let’s look at what we’re taking here and let’s address that. So that’s one possibility.”

Deane says the findings could lead to preventative measures for Alzheimer’s, a disease which currently has no effective treatment options.

He says, in the same way people at risk of heart disease are told to eat less fatty foods, certain people may benefit from decreasing their copper intake.

Views on the role of copper in the onset of Alzheimer’s remain mixed. Other studies have suggested copper may actually protect the brain.

Kate O’Connell comes to WXXI from Melbourne, Australia, and studied journalism at Royal Melboure Institute of Technology.