High Copper High Fat Diet increases risk of Mental Decline

Written By: Gloria Tsang, RD

Title: Founding Registered Dietitian

Alumni: University of British Columbia

Last Updated on:

Study showed copper in high fat diet rich in saturated and trans fats raises risk of mental decline in elderly

Researchers from the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago studied more than 3,500 participants age 65 and older for six years. Diet and mental functions were analyzed. Researchers found that those people who consumed 1.6 milligrams of copper, along with a diet high in saturated and trans fats, experienced an acceleration in metal decline equivalent to 19 more years of age. The results of this study were published in the Archives of Neurology in August 2006.

Editor’s Note – Further evidence that more is not always better

Copper is found in organ meats, seafood, nuts, seeds and cocoa as well as whole grain products. The recommended level of copper intake for an adult is 0.9 milligrams per day. Before we start worrying about copper in food, it is important to note that most participants in the study consumed excessive copper not from foods, but from supplements. Therefore, it is crucial to choose a multivitamin that contains less than 100 percent of the daily value (% DV) of copper to avoid toxicity.

Although evidence of the association of copper and mental decline is limited, the association of bad fats and Alzheimer’s disease is much stronger. We are well aware of the detrimental effects of a diet high in saturated fat and trans fat to our heart health, but we know less about the studies that have documented fat’s adverse effects on mental disease, in particular Alzheimer’s disease.

In the August 2003 issue of Archives of Neurology, the same group of researchers studied different types of fats in relation to Alzheimer’s disease incidents. They found that high intake of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (such as omega 3 fatty acids) may be protective against Alzheimer disease, whereas intake of saturated or trans fats may increase risk. Hence, limit saturated and trans fat, for the sake of your heart and your brain. To do so, try adopting the following tips:

  • Choose wholesome fresh foods instead of packaged foods, which usually contain these bad fats.
  • Avoid using cooking oils that are high in saturated fats and trans fats such as coconut oil, palm oil or vegetable shortening. Instead, use oils that are low in saturated fats and high in mono- and polyunsaturated fats such as canola oil, olive oil and safflower oil.
  • As saturated fats are found in animals products, choose lower-fat version dairy. In addition, trim visible fats and skins from meat products.


copper, saturated fats, trans fat


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