Q: I’ve been wearing a copper bracelet for the past year because it helps my arthritis. Can you tell me how it works? — G.P., Mountaintop, Pa.
A: I’m glad that you’re finding some pain relief from wearing a copper bracelet.
They’ve been used for hundreds of years to relieve joint pain, and there are even some animal studies that show taking copper supplements by mouth can decrease arthritis progression.
Unfortunately, the pain-relieving benefits of wearing a copper bracelet have not held up to scientific scrutiny, and claims to the contrary are anecdotal.
The first randomized placebo-controlled (where neither the researcher nor the study participant knew whether a copper bracelet or a sham bracelet was being worn) study on the use of copper and magnetic bracelets was published in the Oct. 12 issue of Complementary Therapies in Medicine.
The researchers concluded that there was no meaningful difference between the copper bracelet and the sham bracelet in terms of pain, stiffness and physical function.
The likely explanation for your perceived benefit is in the expectant belief that wearing a copper bracelet would help relieve your pain.
Also, people tend to start wearing a copper bracelet when they’re in a lot of pain, and they attribute the easing of their pain to the bracelet rather than to the natural waxing and waning of arthritis pain.
Nonetheless, I don’t see any harm in you continuing to wear the bracelet if you feel it gives you pain relief.
Q: Is there any cure for Alzheimer’s disease on the horizon? — D.W., New York, N.Y.
A: At present, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease and no way to stop its progression.
Food and Drug Administration-approved medications like Aricept and Exelon can only temporarily slow the progressive memory loss of Alzheimer’s disease.
An exciting piece of cutting-edge research from the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville may one day lead to a treatment that can reverse the brain damage of Alzheimer’s disease, as well as treat other neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.
In a surprising reversal of conventional teaching, researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville have discovered that inflammation in the brain is not the trigger that leads to the buildup of amyloid (protein) plaque deposits — the hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.
In fact, inflammation prevents protein plaques from forming in brain tissue and helps to clear the brain of these damaging protein plaques and tangles early in the disease development.
Inflammation appears to direct cells in the brain to “gobble up” abnormal Alzheimer’s plaques as though they were a foreign invader.
It’s hypothesized that eventually, continued production of Alzheimer’s protein plaque in the brain overwhelms the ability for inflammatory cells to do their protective job.
The idea of using an inflammatory-based treatment on Alzheimer’s disease is a double-edged sword: chronic inflammation over years will likely be harmful to healthy brain tissue and lead to even more damage. Clearly, future research needs to identify that healthy balance between the neuroprotective and neurotoxic effects of inflammation.
Dr. Mitchell Hecht is a physician specializing in internal medicine. Send questions to him at: “Ask Dr. H,” P.O. Box 767787, Roswell, GA 30076. Because of the large volume of mail received, personal replies are not possible.