Zinc protects brain cells from effects of copper toxicity
Too much copper can roam freely and accumulate in the liver and the brain, eroding necessary cellular functions. If copper is not bound, transported and utilized properly, it can damage the organs at the molecular level.
Easily absorbed in the stomach and small intestines, excess copper can cross into the blood and affect the kidneys, liver and brain. Too much of this metal being unregulated can destroy brain cells.
A study from the University of Bremen, Germany, shows how the mineral zinc can protect the brain from the toxic effects of unregulated copper.
The right amount of copper is essential
A well regulated amount of copper is essential for energy production and connective tissue repair in the body.
This naturally occurring metal works with calcium and, in small amounts, is used to repair connective tissue in the body, including the ligaments, skin, tendons, hair, nails, and even veins and arteries.
Copper is also used in the production of energy in what is known as the Krebs energy cycle. Imbalances of copper in the electron transport system will produce fatigue and even depression in individuals.
While it may be hard to measure the amount of copper going into the body, the body itself typically does a good job at regulating the proper amount of copper. Proper regulation may be compromised, though, if specific minerals like zinc are not present.
Without zinc, copper can be toxic
Acute exposure to copper through overloaded soil, water or air can directly affect the gut and the gastrointestinal system. The excess copper can travel straight through the gut wall into the bloodstream, where it may cross the blood-brain barrier and damage brain cells. If the cells are lacking zinc, copper may not be utilized effectively and may begin roaming in the soft tissues, tearing away at vulnerable cellular functions.
Zinc, obtained from whole food sources, can be the difference maker in a toxic copper-overloaded cellular environment.
Zinc found to protect the brain from copper toxicity
In the study from Bremen, Germany, researchers put astrocytes to the test.Astrocytes are the most abundant cells in the brain. After applying micromolar concentrations of copper chloride to the brain cells, they studied their cellular functions.
As the copper chloride was added, the copper content within the brain cells increased drastically. One group of cells incubated with 3 microM of copper did not show any cellular changes during a four-hour incubation period. In the 10 microM-incubated group, cells began to severely lose total soluble protein contents. In the extremely toxic group, 30 microM, the conditions got worse, as lowered MTT reduction capacity showed up along with weakening enzyme activity of lactate dehydrogenase, glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase and glutathione reductase.
Further cellular destruction was seen through increased lipid peroxidation and elevated membrane permeability for propidium iodide.
Increased amounts of copper were completely destroying the brain cells from the inside out and ravaging several important cellular functions.
Treating the brain cells with zinc…
When the researchers began treating the brain cells with various amounts of zinc, copper levels were reduced. Total accumulation of copper began to diminish inside the cells. All the consequences of copper exposure began to fade away as the metal was eradicated.
Zinc itself did not reverse the cellular damage. It simply eliminated the copper accumulation, protecting the brain cells from further damage. The cells naturally healed when the presence of copper was eliminated.
This study shows that zinc works in a positive way to balance and regulate levels of copper, which can be toxic in excess amounts. This study shows the precision of harmony between key minerals and metals inside the body and the importance of keeping a balanced diet.
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