Metals and Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s Dementia (NIA)

Metals Interact with Beta Amyloid Protein in Brains of Seniors with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)

Over the years research has discovered that changes in the metabolism of biometals takes place in the brains of seniors with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and these biometals interact with the beta amyloid protein in their brains and this causes the beta amyloid protein to fold into beta amyloid plaques. Beta amyloid plaques and abnormal tangles of another protein called Tau are the two main characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease.


Aluminum is the third most common metal on earth and during the sixties it was found in large amounts in the brains of seniors suffering with Alzheimer’s. This lead to a fear of using aluminum pots, aluminum foil, antiperspirant deodorants, antacids, baking powder and aluminum disposable baking pans. In food, aluminum is found in tea and spinach and aluminum salts are also used by public utilities to purify drinking water. Aluminum is also an ingredient in some prescription drugs and vaccines. So aluminum is everywhere in the environment. No one really knows for certain if aluminum plays a part in the development of AD.

Lead, Mercury, Zinc, Pesticides and Solvents

Lead, mercury, pesticides, solvents, zinc and air pollution are also suspected of causing AD. When lead was outlawed in gasoline in the US there was a drop in the amount of lead found in people. However, there is still lead in paint in old apartment buildings. According to research, early exposure to lead in childhood has been associated with an increase in AD in old age. 

Air Pollution

A recent study by researchers from the University of Montana found beginning Alzheimer’s characteristics in autopsies of infants in highly air polluted Mexico City.


Copper has also been found in the brains of those afflicted with Alzheimer’s and a study showed that when the copper bound itself to the beta amyloid proteins this caused abnormal folding of beta amyloid protein into plaques in the brains of people afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. The formation of these plaques leads to toxicity in the brain, which leads to brain damage and the development of dementia. The researchers found that a substance betanin made from the red dye found in beets could attach itself to metals like copper and iron and prevent the copper from binding to the amyloid proteins, which caused the abnormal folding in the brain. Betanin was not able to prevent all folding in the brain, but betanin was able to stop the oxidation of neurons (brain cells) by 90%. To read more about betanin, beets and Alzheimer’s please see our blog from March 22, 2018.

Calcium, Iron and Calcium Oxide Magnetite

A new study published April 24, 2018, in the Nanoscale Journal by researchers at the Warwick’s School of Engineering has found iron and calcium deposits in the brains of those afflicted with Alzheimer’s, including calcium oxide magnetite, which normally is never found in the human brain. The researchers discovered that these minerals formed when the iron interacted with the beta amyloid plaques. In this case the researchers used special synchrotron X-ray spectromicroscopy which uses chemical and magnetic probes that exposed the presence of various types of iron including magnetite in brain specimens that were taken from two people who had died from Alzheimer’s disease. Calcium is the most abundant metal found in the human brain and  two mineral forms of calcium were also discovered.

Reducing Oxidative Stress may Delay Progression of AD

These results support the hypothesis that the chemical decrease of iron occurs together with the formation of beta amyloid plaques. The researchers  believe that targeting the interaction of beta amyloid and iron in AD may lead to an effective means to reduce overall oxidative stress and delay the progression of the disease.

More about Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)

Alzheimer’s disease is a slow process of deterioration in the brain for which there is presently no cure. Alzheimer’s dementia results in cognitive decline and memory loss accompanied by personality changes and psychiatric behavior disorders. Eventually those afflicted with it lose all ability to think and they may get to the point where they do not remember who they are and also no longer recognize their loved ones. This dementia takes a terrible emotional and financial toil on them and their families. The National Institute for Aging (NIA) estimates that there are more than five million Americans afflicted with Alzheimer’s. It has been the sixth cause of death in the United States, but the NIA claims, that according to new information, it may actually be the third cause of death after heart disease and cancer.

Long-Term Care

Eventually the disease progresses to the point where dementia sufferers need to be in a skilled nursing care facility, as their caregivers can no longer care for them. A report by the Kaiser Foundation claims that half of all resident’s in nursing care facilities in the US have been diagnosed with dementia.

Royal Suites Healthcare And Rehabilitation In Galloway Township, New Jersey

Royal Suites Healthcare and Rehabilitation in Galloway Township, New Jersey has a state-of-the-art Memory Impaired Care Unit especially suited for seniors suffering from memory loss and Alzheimer’s dementia. To read more about memory care please see our blog post from May 29, 2018.


It is to be hoped that these discoveries of the roles that metals, especially iron,  have in the formation of amyloid plaques will lead to ways of preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease.


Leave a Comment