Copper may determine whether you get Alzheimer's or Cancer

Posted on 2 December, 2019 at 0:25 Comments comments (223)


– the importance of both copper and zinc


When I first analysed some of the findings of the" target="_blank"> data on the causes of death in 183 countries, I was excited to find that excessive exposure to copper might be the cause of – or major factor – in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. There is certainly plenty of evidence in the scientific literature to support the likelihood of disturbances in copper exposure and/or metabolism as a cause of Alzheimer’s disease.

But before we avoid copper, we need to realise that there is also a huge amount of evidence that shows that having a ‘sufficient’ intake of copper is critical to health. Copper and zinc are each essential to the function of the Superoxide dismutase 1 enzyme, known as SOD1 that is a key scavenger of the Superoxide radicals that are formed during the metabolism of Oxygen. The second type of SOD enzyme, SOD2, is located in mitochondria and is dependent on Manganese. SOD2 is critical for normal mitochondrial function and the generation of energy.

In my recent book Why we Age, I suggest that damage to copper pipes or other excessive exposures to metallic copper are likely to play a major role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. However, I hadn’t then even considered that there might be a potential ‘trade-off’ between our minds and our bodies. Certainly, it had often been pointed out to me that people who developed dementia were usually more physically fit and those with Arthritis were less likely to have dementia, but I hadn’t then joined the ‘dots’.

So, before I discuss SOD2 in more detail, I will briefly discuss osteoarthritis and SOD1. If you have read Why we Age, you will know that Sulphur is critical to the ongoing health of our cartilage in all our joints but I didn’t stress sufficiently that SOD1 is also involved in arthritis and thus both enough of each of copper and zinc, in balance, is also critical for prevention. As we age the SOD activity in cartilage and synovial fluid drops. One study showed that the SOD activity in cartilage dropped by more than 50% between the ages of 20 and 80. So, as well as having adequate Sulphur, we also need to feed our cartilage adequate and appropriate amounts of both copper and zinc.


Alzheimer’s versus Cancer – your ‘choice’

This is not much of a choice I admit but is seems likely that if we can get your levels of Copper and Zinc just right, we can give ourselves considerable protection from each of these. They are not mutually exclusive options but there are very many scientific publications that show that having cancer offers protection against Alzheimer’s and vice versa.

To show that this inverse relationship works on a world level, I used the data from" target="_blank"> to create the Table below. Here we see the ratios of deaths from all cancers versus Alzheimer’s disease in a sample of countries with high and low incidences of Alzheimer’s. The first three countries were chosen for their high incidence of Alzheimer’s and the other six for their high rates of all cancers. It is easy to see that there is an inverse relationship.

There is likely to be more than one factor causing this inverse ratio, but the evidence is rather compelling that the Copper/Zinc dependent Superoxide Dismutase is a major player in these three common and debilitating illnesses of old age. So, we all need enough but not too much of both copper and zinc to retain the health of our bodies and minds. Excess of either mineral can cause problems as much as a deficiency of either so whilst we must make sure that you aren’t exposed to excess Copper, we must also make sure that we don’t overdose on Zinc!

Obtaining both Copper and Zinc through our diets is probably better than taking supplements but we also need to be aware that the phytic acid in high phytate foods such as grains, nuts and legumes can reduce the absorption of zinc. Many foods contain copper and or zinc, so I’ll leave it to you to find your favourites. Good old dark chocolate has a small amount as do Almonds, Cashews and Sesame seeds. Liver, Oysters and Lobster are all quite rich sources of Copper and copper is also found in Spirulina, some Leafy Greens and Shiitake Mushrooms. Trace amounts of Copper can be absorbed through the skin from a Copper bracelet or ring and this might be a safe way to absorb the low amounts required if you don’t copper-rich foods.