Promoting dementia: Accumulation of copper in the brain triggered brain changes connected to Alzheimer's
Scientists found strong evidence that accumulation of the metal in the brain resulted in changes to the brain that promoted the disease.
But they say the results must be treated with caution as copper is so abundant in a balanced diet and vital to health.
The metal, found in red meats, shellfish, nuts, many fruit and veg and even drinking water, plays important roles in nerve function, bone growth, the formation of connective tissue, and hormone secretion.
Researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Centre in New York showed that copper accumulating in the brain disrupted the natural removal of toxic protein, known as amyloid beta, which is strongly implicated in Alzheimer's.
It also stimulated the production of the protein.
'It is clear that, over time, copper's cumulative effect is to impair the systems by which amyloid beta is removed from the brain,' said lead author Professor Rashid Deane.
'This impairment is one of the key factors that cause the protein to accumulate in the brain and form the plaques that are the hallmark of Alzheimer's disease.'
But Professor Dean urged caution when interpreting the results, as copper is also an essential mineral.