braceletAdvances in antioxidant therapy have led to significant benefits in many areas of human health. Vitamins C and E, phytochemicals like lycopene in tomatoes, and oral zinc have found relatively widespread use as prophylactics and treatments of bronchial asthma, cancer, and other disorders.

Still, the results of clinical trials of Vitamins C and E against atherosclerosis have been disappointing. Yet they were predictable because oxidative processes go on inside of arterial walls, whereas Vitamins C and E are known to operate only in the plasma and lipid membranes.

Meanwhile, statins can be effective antioxidants in cardiovascular disorders (Shishehbor et al., 2003a; Shishehbor et al. 2003b). Unfortunately, statins are rather expensive and may have unacceptable side effects.So researchers need to renew their efforts to apply nutritional antioxidants where they work best €”e.g., in respiratory disorders. But they also need to test them in other important indications €”most obviously in the treatment of HIV/AIDS where highly promising results show that Vitamins C and E might be able to slow disease progression, or stop it entirely (Allard et al., 1998).

Which direction to head next? Most researchers would agree that, rather than relying excessively on one or two super-antioxidants, we would do better to devise concerted strategies to boost the body’s overall antioxidant defense. Oxidative processes take place in many compartments and involve a range of reactive oxygen species and interactions. So finding ways to counteract them at several levels and with a full set of antioxidants makes sense.

The Missing Link?

The concept of feeding the body the microminerals required for the formation of metalloenzymes with antioxidant properties has attracted significant research as well as popular interest. It is possible, for instance, that an undersupply of copper and zinc in cardiovascular disease might lead to an insufficient production of the intracellular zinc-copper enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD) or of the extracellular copper version of SOD. Even if statins can reduce oxidation levels by 25-30 percent inside of arterial walls, it would presumably be very useful to reduce them further or to find an inexpensive nutritional substitute for statins.

Given that the single most important reactive oxygen species is superoxide, it makes sense to test whether supplementation of zinc and copper can lead to the formation of a more optimal amount of SOD and consequent reduction in oxidative stress. Note that another key antioxidant enzyme €”ceruloplasmin €”is also a copper enzyme.

Once the decision is made to supplement zinc and copper in such a test, though, the question should be asked (but often is not): by what route? Are there advantages to routes other than the common oral one?

While it is possible that some other approach could yield good results, the potential benefits of dosing zinc and copper transdermally, from a medicinal bracelet, deserve careful attention.

Transdermal zinc and copper do not encounter the obstacles posed by gastrointestinal uptake mechanisms, including the need to compete with other minerals and the danger of being blocked by phytates and other substances in food. Transdermal feeding is continuous, which may permit the body to direct the zinc and copper to the right locations more optimally than with intermittent gastrointestinal feeding. Medicinal bracelets also have few side effects. Most important, transdermal micronutrition appears to entrain a primitive physiological response (Dillon, 2003, pp. 117-8) that may have a tonic effect and convey other benefits.

Copper and zinc from medicinal bracelets appear to be more effective than oral supplements in forming antioxidant enzymes; the body may hoard oral copper and zinc. It is also possible that a copper-zinc bracelet would convey a much more effective antioxidant effect than Vitamins C and E €”or than oral copper and zinc €”in cardiovascular disorders.

Rather than speculating about the pros and cons of such testing, the argument should be: test medicinal bracelets in this role because the payoff could prove highly gratifying, while bracelets cost little to test. If successful, medicinal bracelets could become a standard component of antioxidant therapy and thereby enhance overall adherence and effectiveness. Another plus: most people consider wearing a medicinal bracelet an attractive, low-impact approach. In fact, there is evidence that quite a few wearers derive psychological benefit from their bracelets (Walker and Keats, 1976), and this could lead to better outcomes.

We need to work to refine and test the components of combination Antioxidant Therapy. As of now, the Big Five are Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Lycopene as found in tomatoes, zinc, and copper. Here it is argued that a copper/zinc bracelet provides a superior means of providing the microminerals on the list. (The recent findings that high doses of Vitamins C and E taken over extended periods of time can actually be harmful in cardiovascular patients do not pertain to their use in the therapy of HIV/AIDS and respiratory disorders. Antioxidants have repeatedly been found to be very effective and safe in respiratory disorders.)   Perhaps every heart patient should be wearing a medicinal bracelet.

NOTE:  Copper bracelets are counter-indicated for cancer patients because copper can promote metastases.

Allard, J.P. et al. (1998). “Effects of vitamin E and C supplementation on oxidative stress and viral load in HIV-infected subjects,” AIDS 12, pp. 1653-1659

Dillon, Kenneth J. (2003). Close-to-Nature Medicine. Washington, D.C.: Scientia Press

Shishehbor, Mehdi H. et al. (2003a), “Statins Promote Potent Systemic Antioxidant Effects through Specific Inflammatory Pathways,” Circulation, 108, pp. 426-31

Shishehbor, Mehdi H. et al. (2003b), “Association of Nitrotyrosine Levels with Cardiovascular Disease and Modulation by Statin Therapy,” JAMA, 289, 13, pp. 1675-80

Walker, W.R. and Daphne M. Keats (1976), “An Investigation of the Therapeutic Value of the ‘Copper Bracelet’–Dermal Assimilation of Copper in Arthritic/Rheumatoid Conditions”, Agents and Actions 6, No. 4, 454-459


Kenneth J. Dillon is an historian who writes on science, medicine, and history.   See the biosketch at About Us.

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