Approximately 6.5 million Americans age 65 and older are living with Alzheimer's and it is increasing rapidly. By 2050, this number is projected to rise to nearly 13 million. It's a very scary condition to be handed with and despite a lot of science being put out on the mechanisms on as to what could cause it, as well as slow it down, there is little evidence to show what can stop it completely. Hence, prevention is key.
First, let's understand what is Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's is a degenerative condition of the brain that is caused by a series of brain changes that can cause cell damage. Scientists are not 100% sure on as to why it develops, but their hypothesis stands at the degeneration of brain tissue, including loss of nerve cells, the accumulation of an abnormal protein called beta-amyloid, and the development of neurofibrillary tangles. It can lead to dementia symptoms that eventually worsen. The most common and early symptom of Alzheimer's is trouble remembering things.
Let's hang onto the point of it potentially being caused by a loss of nerve cells for a second, okay? Nerve cells don't just die just like that. In most cases, aside from traumatic injury or genetic disorders, nerve cells will be negatively affected by environmental toxins (like heavy metals), cardiovascular disorders, or pathogens like a virus or bacterial infection, especially if the sheath that covers them is affected.
Interestingly enough, many patients with Alzheimer's also have cardiovascular disorders relating to higher cholesterol levels or blood pressure. Typically, this is rarely a sign of "too much saturated fat, cholesterol or meat" in the diet, but rather a more ingrained deficiency or issue at hand that needs further investigation.
Getting back to the sheath though, this sheath that covers nerve cells is called myelin. Myelin is like an insulating layer that forms around nerves, specifically found in our brain and spinal cord. It actually accounts for 75% of our brain weight. The majority of what makes up myelin is cholesterol and its main function is to help with the electrical impulses amongst nerve cells. If myelin is damaged, these impulses slow down which can then hinder cognitive performance.
Now this is when it gets interesting. Did you know that copper allows the conversation of impulses to continue safely as well as strengthening myelin? Stronger myelin directly equates to a more durable insulated layer over the nerves, hence protects an individual from potentially damaging nerve cells. Meaning we need adequate and bioavailable copper to protect our brain.
When we state "bioavailable" copper, we mean that copper needs to be attached to a specific protein called ceruloplasmin in order for the body to be able to use it. Without it, copper can become a bit destructive and can accumulate in tissues. Ceruloplasmin is made in the adrenal glands and liver, with the help of particular nutrients such as magnesium, vitamin C and vitamin A (in retinol form specifically). Hence, we need to make sure we're not over stressing our bodies to tax our adrenal glands too much, as well as over burdening our liver to properly produce adequate ceruloplasmin to bind to copper.
But wait, there's more. Remember how we mentioned cholesterol issues can also be present with those struggling with Alzheimer's and that cholesterol make up the majority of the myelin? Well, did you know copper is a fat soluble mineral, meaning that in order to prevent copper accumulation one needs to have enough cholesterol present in the diet and be able to properly break down fats?
Elevated cholesterol is rarely a dietary issue for we typically make about 80% of our total body cholesterol. However, in order to utilize cholesterol we need to be able to convert it, and part of that conversion we need specific nutrients like retinol (sound familiar?), copper (ironic?) and a proper functioning thyroid.
This can get complicated, but we'll stop there for now. Essentially, everything is connected, and we have seen that adequate fat intake, especially from cholesterol rich foods that have vital fat soluble vitamins like eggs, butter, meats and fatty fish, as well as copper rich foods like liver, oysters, bee pollen and chlorophyll, help with that nerve conduction over all.
If you're someone who may have a copper deficiency, we highly recommend looking into our Upgraded Copper, but don't forget we always recommend testing and not guessing if you're not sure! You can always do so by ordering an HTMA test with us here.
Hope you found this insightful!
Chemical Engineer and Nutritionist
Founder of Upgraded Formulas