More research is being done in the area of degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, and its relationship with metals. We are finding certain metals that accumulate in the brain may impair or alleviate symptoms of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s sufferers.
The tiny metal ions of iron, copper and zinc serve many functions in the body. They facilitate chemical reactions in the brain and other parts of the body. These trace metals generate energy and preserve the protein structures in brain tissue. If these metals are not kept in check, a variety of disorders can take place.
For instance, we now know that low iron can cause anemia and make us feel tired. But too much iron, especially in the brain is toxic and has been linked to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Accumulated iron produces free radicals which are highly reactive molecules that can cause brain damage.
The balance between copper and zinc is also crucial. Copper and zinc are regarded as neurotransmitters and are in high concentrations in the brain. Behavior disorders have been associated with elevated copper and low zinc levels. These include hyperactivity, attention deficit disorder, depression, severe PMS and post-partum depression. Elevated copper levels can also manifest as acne, eczema, sensitive skin, headaches and poor immune function.
Many biotech companies are now looking into metal-lowering drugs for treatment of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. This may be alittle tricky given that it’s hard to target metals in specific parts of the brain. For instance zinc helps neurons communicate in the hippocampus (a brain region involved in memory and learning), but if zinc is pushed in a region that it doesn’t belong, it could cause epileptic seizures.
There are also some genetic mutations that regulate these metals and their absorption in the brain (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease). Irregardless of the biochemistry we were given, we need to realize that these metals play a vital role in neurological disease. These metals are influenced by aging, disease, food sources, supplements and cooking in metal pans. You don’t have to look far to get some answers. Serum levels of zinc, iron and copper can be easily measured.
More research is on the way….