A study published today (Monday 14 April) in Annals of Neurology found that people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and high levels of a particular type of copper in their bloodstream were at an increased risk of going on to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers tested 141 people, all of whom had MCI, for levels of this copper. They found that those with high levels had a 50 percent chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease within four years, while those with low levels of this type of copper had less than a 20 percent chance of progressing to Alzheimer’s disease.
Based on these findings, a blood test has been developed to test copper levels in people with MCI to predict who is at greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. This test is currently only available in Italy.
The study did not establish whether high levels of copper in the blood is a factor in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, or a symptom of brain cell death – which is the cause of dementia.
Alzheimer’s Society comment:
‘This small study alone is not strong enough to suggest that a blood test for copper could reliably predict those who will go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s Society is currently funding research to help unravel the complex relationship between copper and dementia by studying brain scans.
‘For people living with mild cognitive impairment, there is not enough evidence that cutting out copper – which is a vital mineral for the body – will stave off Alzheimer’s disease. What we do know is that what’s good for your heart is good for your head – and so the best way to reduce your risk of developing dementia is to eat a balanced diet, do regular exercise and not smoke.’
Dr James Pickett
Head of Research