About 11% of people over age 65 are suffering from dementia. And for people over 85, the figure grows to a staggering 32% — almost one-third.1Today we’ll look at an intriguing theory that may go a long way toward explaining the epidemic.
If you go back to the early 1900s, the disease was extremely rare, even among the elderly. It started gaining momentum in the 1950s. And it’s been picking up speed in more recent years — but only in developed countries, like the United States.
This feature of modern life may be one of the reasons. . .
Why is Alzheimer’s a bigger problem in developed countries? There’s growing evidence that our tap water could be part of it.
After World War II, use of copper pipes in home construction took off in developed countries. It’s estimated that 90% of US homes now have pipes made from copper.2 And when you drink water from copper pipes, you ingest a bit of the metal with each sip.
But there’s one developed country where the use of copper pipes never took hold––Japan. And they don’t have the same problem with Alzheimer’s that we do.
Please understand, our bodies do need copper. Copper moves oxygen around to where it’s needed. It’s used to convert food to energy, to metabolize nutrients, and to fight free radicals.
And copper is especially important for healthy mental functioning. It helps keep our neurotransmitters strong. That’s why 7.3% of the total amount of copper in our bodies is found in our brain, although the brain is only two or three percent of our weight.
So how can copper be both important for mental functioning AND contribute to Alzheimer’s?
How You Get Your Copper Makes a Difference
“Organic” copper is the kind you get from the food you eat; it’s bound to other elements like carbon and hydrogen. But there’s also “inorganic” copper – copper in its elemental form, not bound to anything else. When inorganic copper is in your bloodstream, it’s called “free copper.” And it’s NOT good.
People with Alzheimer’s disease have a much higher level of free copper. The higher the level, the worse their cognitive decline.
Where does inorganic copper come from?
It comes mainly from two sources. One is drinking water that flows through copper pipes.
Numerous studies show that adding even tiny amounts of inorganic copper to drinking water––as little as one-tenth of what the Environmental Protection Agency says is safe––greatly contributes to symptoms found in Alzheimer’s patients.3
And the other source? The copper found in multi-vitamins. So it appears that taking a multi-vitamin with a glass of tap water may contribute to Alzheimer’s.
But There’s Another Factor That Makes It Worse
The results of a six-year, 3,718-person study done in a Chicago community were downright shocking.4
The study participants who consumed higher amounts of inorganic copper and who also ate higher amounts of saturated and trans fats suffered a much faster cognitive decline. And the more copper they consumed, the faster their brain functioning went downhill.
The brains of people in the top quintile of copper consumption – the one-fifth of the group who ingested the most — declined at a rate that was 143% faster than people with the lowest one-fifth. In other words, their brains aged 19 years over the course of the six-year study. That’s equivalent to an entire generation!
Now, scientists need to do more research to confirm that the linkage is cause and effect and not merely coincidence, but to me, the evidence suggests it would be smart to make some simple changes in our habits.
First of all, if you drink water from your faucet and don’t know if you have copper pipes, you can get your water tested. Or you can just switch to filtered water, which is what I recommend.
Second, don’t take a multivitamin that contains copper. Many of them do. Check the labels.
Finally, you should completely eliminate trans fats from your food choices (which I suspect most of my readers have done already). Trans fats are mostly found in processed foods, because they have a longer shelf than do natural fats. Trans fats are modified fats not found in nature.
Instead, up your intake of healthy fats, such as nuts, fish oil, seeds like flax and chia, and avocado.5 These healthy fats have been shown to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.