Copper pipes leak copper into drinking water: Credit: Susan Lesch, Wikimedia Commons Though copper, iron, and other metals in your blood can be beneficial when you are young, a new study finds they are detrimental to those over 50 years old. So detrimental, that the study warns persons over 50 to actively reduce sources of copper and iron in their diets and in their environments, because they can lead to Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, and other age-related disorders.
The report, by Dr. George Brewer at the University of Michigan Medical School, is in the American Chemical Society (ACS) journal, Chemical Research in Toxicology and it is a review of toxicity research. Dr. Brewer indicates that copper and iron toxicities are so severe in the population that they are a public health problem.
Chemical breakdown of copper and iron in the body.: ©American Chemical Society
Unfortunately, the body stores excess metals, and they build up as we age. After 50, these toxic metals can contribute to Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases, arteriosclerosis, diabetes, and several other diseases. One study found that those in the top fifth in copper intake lost cognition at three times the normal rate, if they were also eating a relatively high fat diet.
Copper is found in drinking water, especially if it comes from copper pipes, but Dr. Brewer indicates that even one-tenth the amount of copper that is allowed in human drinking water by the Environmental Protection Agency induced cognitive decline in animal models.
"It seems clear that large segments of the population are at risk for toxicities
from free copper and free iron, and to me, it seems clear that preventive steps
should begin now," Dr. Brewer said. And he indicates that people over the age of 50 should avoid vitamins and minerals that contain copper and iron, lower their meat intake, avoid drinking water from copper pipes, and take zinc supplements to lower copper levels. Additionally, he advises those who are able to give blood regularly, as that will reduce iron levels.
Chemical Research in Toxicology, EurekAlert