ADHD Insights: Brain Copper Matters

ADHD Insights: Metabolism Matters Video
October 16, 2012
ADHD Insights: Attention Talk Video With Jeff Copper
October 18, 2012

Copper Creates ADHD symptomsADHD Medications Can't Correct Trace Element Imbalances

I'll be keeping you posted in the coming days on more interesting studies and reports on the relevance of trace element awareness and testing for comprehensive review of cognitive challenges often associated with ADHD symptoms. This brief note introduces new complexity to ADHD target definition.

Understanding copper can dramatically change ADHD treatment outcomes.

Neurotransmitter imbalances, like dopamine in the prefrontal cortex, can live downstream from copper challenges. Too much or too little copper can create psychiatric challenges that evade traditional superficial, DSM 4, appearance-based assessments.

Why Think About Copper?

For comprehensive assessments target recognition is imperative. Tissue mineral analysis is the standard of care/assessments for drug and alcohol testing, why not consider it for even more precise measurement of trace elements and heavy metals?

If you don't know what you're shooting at, you can hit symptoms only by chance. Like shooting geese at night: Honk, Bang! I cast my vote for improved scientifically-based predictability, especially if we're shooting at correcting brain function.

For Starters: Consider Copper and Immunity

Excerpts from this interesting summary: Understanding Copper Deficiency in Celiac Disease July 28th, 2010 by Cleo Libonati, RN, BSN  [I strongly suggest reading this entire article.]

  1. Copper usually receives little coverage, but this unpretentious nutrient deserves center stage. It is time for a serious role review.
  2. Two reasons for review: First, deficiency of this trace mineral can debilitate and threaten our lives, and second, deficiency develops with increased frequency in those of us with celiac disease, unlike the general population. [Ed. note: An important connection with malabsorption]
  3. Copper is required for hemoglobin production in red blood cells, production and function of white blood cells, the absorption, transport and use of iron, energy metabolism, the development, growth and maintenance of bone and connective tissue, the formation and maintenance of myelin sheath (outer surface of nerve fibers), adrenal hormone production, thyroid hormone production, muscle tone, immunity, reproduction, tissue repair, pigmentation of hair and skin, and proper growth and development of infants and children.
  4. Copper deficiency is characterized by fatigue, anemia, neutropenia (low level of neutrophils, the most common type of white blood cell that protect against infection), leukopenia (abnormal decrease of leukocytes or white blood cells), bone and joint abnormalities, skin abnormalities, impairment of nerve and muscle function, impairment of adrenal and thyroid gland function, reproductive difficulties and loss of hair and skin color.
  5. Copper deficiency weakens the immune system, permitting increased vulnerability to infection. Resulting immune malfunctions involve low activity of white blood cells to invading pathogens, poor cell response and low production of hormone by the thymus gland. Neutropenia, or low white blood cell count, is a hallmark of copper deficiency.
  6. Neurotransmitters: Copper-containing enzymes are required in the formation, activity and breaking down of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are essential chemicals needed for proper nervous system activity and include dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.

We regularly witness copper imbalances tied to both gluten and casein sensitivity and to ADHD presentations, and plan more missives on these matters, so stay tuned.



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  1. Michele Nimmo says:

    Extremely interesting and so glad you are looking into this. I’ve just discovered about the risks of copper deficiency after having read all the warnings of how bad it is.

    I found this talk the other day and it was fascinating to say the least.

    Between yourself, Dr Parker as well as Dr’s Brown and Barkley, I have learned so much. I respect and thank you all for your research and sharing your knowledge with us that need it.

    Kindest Regards,
    Michele Nimmo

    • Michele – you’re very kind – I strongly recommend this interesting link for our readers and appreciate your sharing this reference. It’s a privilege to find myself listed with luminaries like Tom Brown and Russ Barkley – two men far ahead of these times.

      Thanks for your contribution to this important dialogue.

  2. […]ADHD insights: Copper Matters in Neurotransmitter Balance […]

  3. Gina Pera says:

    Hi Dr. P,

    Thank you for delving into vitamin/mineral imbalances. I know I’ve made a pest of myself asking you about this for years.

    Once I sat, shocked, in a lecture by a highly touted ADHD expert here in the SF Bay Area, when he mentioned that zinc is “a rare mineral.” A member of the audience had asked him about the role of vitamins and minerals — you know, those little things that enable neuron transmission? And he completely dismissed the question, as if it were “woo.” Zinc a “rare mineral” indeed.

    About 10 years ago, I remember listening to an interview with Laura Hillenbrand, author of the fantastic book Seabiscuit. She explained that she had Epstein-Barr virus, as confirmed by some well-known hospital, and how she wrote the book during the few hours of the day in which she could pull herself out of bed. She mentioned that her boyfriend had kindly kept a steady supply of cereal boxes on her desk, so that she would not have to go into the kitchen to eat.

    “Copper overload!”, I said to her via the radio. “You might have copper overload!”

    I would bet good money that these Epstein-Barr “specialists” don’t even know about copper-zinc balance — or that you can suffer from copper overload of a type that doesn’t kill you but saps you of your vitality.

    We are beset by “stove-pipe” thinking in medicine, and I do despair of it sometimes. Especially when basic biochemistry is not even part of the equation. Thank you for covering this very important aspect of brain health!

    Gina Pera, author
    Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.? [Ed Note: ]

    • Gina,
      Always appreciate your feedback – and completely agree with your comment here. The Tissue Mineral Analysis sounds flaky but I’ll be describing even more trace element details in posts down the road.

      On the copper: interesting how copper manifests it’s own Therapeutic Window, requiring some specific watching and care with measurement. You likely have read Ann Louise Gittleman’s book on Chronic Fatigue: Why am I always so tired? [ ] which covers the too much copper side, while this post covers the too little side.

      More coming – great to hear from you, look forward to our next chance to catch up! Will be sending you a paperback copy of New ADHD Med Rules soon – much improved with a professional editor!

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