Copper, Alzheimer's Link: Trace Amounts Found in Water Could Damage Brain Cells

It's in tap water, red meats, fruits, vegetables, and much, much more- but can copper be responsible for causing Alzheimer's disease? New research says that it's a possibility.

A new study, which weighs the effects of copper in the human diet, has concluded that even average amounts of copper intake can contribute to Alzheimer's disease. Found in a range of foods and even vitamin supplements, copper is most readily discovered in water. While the the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) monitors the levels of metals contained in foods and beverages, the new study points out that it is not how much copper is contained in the item but how much copper build up there is over time.

Continued copper build up, even when consumed at regular or low levels over a period of time, can breakdown barriers responsible from keeping toxins out of the brain. When that happens, the brain attempts to increase its production of beta-amyloid. At the same time, the build up also dampens the efficiency of proteins responsible for clearing the brain of toxins.

Researches said in the study, printed Monday in the journal PNAS, that the most concern is about the amount of copper necessary in order for such negative effects to take place.

"These are very low levels of copper, equivalent to what people would consume in a normal diet," said Rashid Deane, Ph.D., a research professor in the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Department of Neurosurgery and lead author of the study, told Forbes.

The new research could help to prevent the onset of Alzheimer's, which scientists have not yet found a cure for. However, at least some copper is still necessary in the diet.

"The key will be striking the right balance between too much and too little copper consumption," Deane told the Los Angeles Times. "Right now, we cannot say what the right level will be. But diet may one day play an important role in regulating this process."