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BONUS QUANTUM ANTI-COUNTERFEITING TECHNIQUE : REAL GOLD LEVITATES
“Mfkzt” – A New Dimension in the Value of Gold
by Stephen Robbins, PhD / January 20, 2006
“Let us add another dimension to the perceived value of gold. It is a value applied to an alternative source of energy, higher states of consciousness, space-travel, health and in all likelihood, more. This value emerges from a science apparently once known to the ancients, now being rediscovered. In what follows, let me state that I am, for the most part, merely condensing a much larger discussion of the subject by Lawrence Gardner.
“Mfkzt” (sometimes pronounced “mufkuzt”) is the ancient Egyptian name for a transformed state of gold. By a special process of arc heating, gold and other platinum group metals can be turned into a single atom or monatomic substance – a form of powder – that has superconductive properties. The process was rediscovered starting in the late 1970’s through the efforts of David Hudson, a large landowner and farmer near Yuma, Arizona. The high sodium content of much Arizona soil makes it crunchy and impenetrable by water. Hudson was attempting to use sulfuric acid to combat this, and in the course of analyzing soil constituents that were not dissolved by the acid, a strange substance began to emerge. Curiously, it was observed, when exposed over time to the hot sun, small chunks of the soil that failed to dissolve would suddenly burst in a blaze of light and disappear. An expert in Arc Emission Spectroscopy was engaged. This process involves placing a sample in a carbon electrode cup and bringing another electrode down above it to create an arc. As the current flows, the elements in the sample literally boil off (ionize), giving off their specific light frequencies. Once the electrode burned itself away (about 15 seconds), the standard process still left a glowing white bead yet comprising 98% percent of the sample, but registering (to the spectroscope) nothing! Using a special, Soviet-designed version which encapsulates the process in an inert gas such as argon, the elements of the soil sample again boiled away – small amounts of iron, silica, aluminum, titanium, etc. For 70 seconds, all readings stopped, then came palladium, ruthenium, rhodium, iridium and at 220 seconds, osmium – the metals of the platinum group (PGM).
The tests continued from 1983-1989, at Hudson’s expense, with highly qualified experts. The substance was heated at 1.2 degrees C per minute, and cooled at 2 degrees C per minute. In the heating process, at the moment the sample changed from its original dullness to the whiteness of its bright bead and subsequent powder, its weight fell to 56% of the original. The other 44% was inexplicably missing. Further heating at 1160 degrees in a vacuum resulted in a wonderfully clear glass, and a return to 100% of the original weight. Repeatedly heated and cooled under inert gases, the sample rose to 300-400% of its original weight, but when heated again, it weighed less than nothing – below zero. At this point, the sample would disappear from sight. A voltmeter with live electrodes touched to ends of the substance (when visible) revealed no conductivity whatever. The substance was a high temperature superconductor.
A superconductor does not allow any voltage potential or any magnetic field to exist within itself; it is a perfect insulator. But it is extremely sensitive to magnetic fields of infinitely minute magnitudes and will respond to extremely small magnetic forces. Within such a conductor a single frequency light flows, liquid-like, at the speed of sound. Its null magnetic field repels both North and South magnetic poles, but it can absorb high magnetic energy, producing even more light. The Earth’s magnetic field can give sufficient energy for it to levitate. This is what was happening to the apparently missing 44% of weight.
And when the sample registered as less than zero, the material was in a full state of levitation. The field produced by the flowing light, which excludes all other fields, is termed a Meissner field. When two superconductors are linked by their Meissner fields, over any distance, the two can act, instantaneously, in a process termed “quantum coherence.” For two particles in a coherent state and separated by a great distance, a change in one particle, for example its spin state, is instantaneously communicated to the other. This is despite the fact that given the classical limitation of the maximum velocity of communication at the speed of light, such instantaneous communication should not have happened.
As more light can continually “pour” into the same space, any amount of energy can be stored in a superconductor, and transmitted over any distance via a quantum wave which knows no boundaries of space or time. You can start a superconductor flowing by applying a magnetic field. It responds by flowing light inside, building a larger Meissner field. Drop the magnet and return in 100 years, it is still flowing. Indeed, in the course of his efforts, Hudson had made contact with scientists, at the time from GE, who had realized that a monatomic superconductor could enable the perfect, environmentally friendly fuel-cell. Hudson planned to start a manufacturing plant to produce the critical monatomic component.
According to a theory of physicist Hal Puthoff, at the point in heating when the powder (now termed by physics “exotic matter”) disappears, it resides outside of space-time, in another dimension. Proof of this was ascertained by attempting to disturb and scoop the substance off the pan while invisible, so that it would be in a new position when again seen. This did not happen – the substance always returned to the same position. Discussions of exotic matter and “stealth atoms” began to appear in the scientific journals in the early 1990’s. Physics refers to the monatomic high-spin state as “asymmetrical deformed high-spin nuclei.”
A correlated subject is the manipulation of space-time. Alcubierre (Journal of Classical and Quantum Gravity, 1994), stated flatly: “It is now known that it is possible to modify space-time in a way that allows a spaceship to travel at an arbitrarily large speed by a purely local expansion of the space-time behind the spaceship and a purely local contraction in front of it – a motion faster than the speed of light reminiscent of the warp drive of science fiction.” Szpir (American Scientist, 1994) reconciled this with relativity’s theoretic limit of velocity to the speed of light, arguing that when in “warp” mode, the craft would not really be traveling at all, for the true rate of acceleration would be zero. Making Szpir’s relocation of chunks of space-time possible – “exotic matter,” i.e., matter which has a gravitational attraction of less than zero.
Let us turn, for a moment, to the past. In 1904, the great British archeologist, Sir W. M. Flinders Petrie, discovered a massive cave in an area of the Sinai he believed to be the biblical Mount Horeb. Within was an ancient temple dedicated to the Goddess Hathor. The associated artifacts and inscriptions, to include a metallurgist’s crucible, indicated it had been in continuous operation for 1500 years. Hidden beneath the flagstones was a considerable quantity – many tons – of a pure white powder. Within also were innumerable references to “bread” and the traditional hieroglyph for “light.” In one of a whole class of similar depictions,
The Sothic triangle is generally adjacent to an ankh
Hathor offers the emblem of life to the pharaoh, while behind her, her treasurer holds a conical loaf of “white bread.” The conical loaves were the “shem-an-na, ” the bread of life, associated with increasing longevity and with travel to the realms of the afterlife. This was the province of the kings and nobles. It is now known that monatomic platinum group metals will resonate with deformed (or cancerous) body cells, “relaxing” and correcting the DNA, while iridium is tuned to the ends of the DNA strands, turning the DNA itself into a superconductor. “Mfkzt” was listed in the Egyptian lists of precious substances, while the locality of the king in the afterlife is called the “Field of Mfkzt.” It seems there was a precise reason that Moses ground the golden calf to a powder, put it in water and fed it to the unruly Israelites (Exodus 32:20) – it was to raise their consciousness.
The Israelites themselves, it has been argued, were the Hyksos. Expelled from their kingdom in lower Egypt, they took their technology with them. The Ark, with its thick outer and inner plates of gold, both sandwiching a layer of insulating “shittim” wood, formed a massive capacitor. The solid gold lid alone is estimated to have weighed 2700 pounds, excluding the two golden cherubim perched on top, serving as electrodes when connected to the inner and outer plate respectively. Just sitting, it would have accumulated a massive, deadly charge. Within was placed a golden container of mfkzt/shem-an-na or manna (see Hebrews 9:4). The bible makes it clear that the Ark was capable of levitation and had destructive powers.
Recent works have suggested that after the First Crusade, the Templars, apparently the custodians of a secret knowledge passed on for generations, recovered the Ark from its hiding place in the cavern-vaults beneath the Jerusalem temple, and hid it again before the demise of their order in 1307. Near a door of the cathedral of Chartres, a Latin inscription reads: “Here is yielded up the Ark of the Covenant.” On the floor of the cathedral, there is the famous figure/design of the labyrinth. A 4’6″ diameter copper plate once was fastened over this (the bolt studs are still visible). Copper is a type 2 superconductor (allowing some penetration of external fields).
Directly above, from the roof, there once hung a massive lodestone. Laced with iridium, as is common for these extra-terrestrial stones, it would have been a powerful type 1 superconductor (no external field penetration). Needed to start a powerful tubular flux between the two was a source of voltage, and the Ark, with its mfkzt within and itself a superconductor with its own Meissner field, was such par excellence. Gardner speculates that the Ark itself rests precisely yet in Chartres – in another dimension. If so, it is surrounded by the mysterious stained glass of the cathedrals with its wonderful, etheric inner light – a glass that perhaps only now can be duplicated.
By 1995, at the demand of the patent office, Hudson was able to demonstrate the reverse process. From a sample that registered as iron, silica and aluminum, there emerged an ingot that analyzed as pure gold. The alchemists, to include Newton himself as modern scholars have uncovered, were apparently pursuing an ancient possibility that was once quite well understood. But Hudson’s story ends predictably. He refused the advances of an “investor” who was traced to the DOD. He was told that his projects would never be allowed to complete, and eventually was shut down via “natural” (OSHA, EPA, fines) red tape. As Gardner, notes, “…it is now destined to become a science of big league players at government and corporate levels. Consequently, the stakes are high and the precious metals markets have moved on to a new platform of strategic operation. As oil begins its downward slide to become the fuel of yesteryear, the future masters of the globe will be those who control the gold and PGM supplies.”
Gold is the new oil. Rather than being produced from the soil of earth through Hudson’s process, the decision has been made: the source of the monatomic powder and its vast profits will be controlled by those who hold the existent stores and control the mining operations. A case can be made that it was to this end – control in the “proper hands” – that, beginning in 1999, gold was devalued and systematically sold off by the Bank of England and other central banks. There is much more to this subject. Please do your own diligence.”
UNNAMED STATES of MATTER
Meet the Newest State of Matter
by Michael Byrne / 9 May 2015
“It’s only slightly less exciting than it sounds: a new state of matter. The discovery, which comes courtesy of an international team led by Kosmas Prassides of Tokohu University in Japan, offers a novel material with an unusual combination of properties—insulator, superconductor, metal, magnet. Of particular interest is the hint of high-temperature superconductivity, something of a materials science holy grail and a persistent physics mystery. There are lots of different states of matter. We all know solids, liquids, gases, and, probably, plasmas, but beyond these there’s an entire catalog of matter alternatives: Bose–Einstein condensate, degenerate matter, supersolids/superfluids, quark-gluon plasma, etc. The difference is that all those alternatives are lab-created and don’t have much place out in the real world of nature. The Prassides group’s new material is one of those states, a crystalline arrangement of carbon-60 molecules, better known as buckyballs, doped with rubidium atoms, which are used here to control and maintain distances between the buckyballs, tuning the material’s properties/phases.
It’s in this tuning that we find the new, previously unknown state or states of matter, which are known as a “Jahn–Teller metals” after the Jahn-Teller effect, which relates structural deformations among molecules found within a material to its electrical properties. Put simply, by applying or removing pressure, it’s possible to boost the conductivity of what may have been an insulator at lower pressures. High pressure: conductivity. This is what the rubidium atoms do: apply pressure. Usually when we think about adding pressure, we think in terms of squeezing something, forcing its molecules closer together by brute force. But it’s possible to do the same thing chemically, tweaking the distances between molecules by adding or subtracting some sort of barrier between them—sneaking in some extra atoms, perhaps.
[Image: Prassides et al]
What happens in a Jahn–Teller metal is that as pressure is applied, and as what was previously an insulator—thanks to the electrically-distorting Jahn-Teller effect—becomes a metal, the effect persists for a while. The molecules hang on to their old shapes. So, there is an overlap of sorts, where the material still looks an awful lot like an insulator, but the electrons also manage to hop around as freely as if the material were a conductor. “The surprising thing about this metal–insulator transition is that it involves an intermediate state never seen before,” Hamish Johnston writes in Physics World.
“The researchers have dubbed this a ‘Jahn–Teller metal’ because when the material is studied using infrared spectroscopy, the fulleride molecules clearly show rugby-ball distortions, which were only known to occur in insulators. However, nuclear magnetic resonance measurements clearly show that electrons are able to “hop” from one molecule to the next–which is the signature of a conducting metal.” This is all pretty important because this transition from insulator to metal is also a transition from insulator to potential superconductor. The resulting metal just needs low enough temperatures and all of a sudden its electrons start pairing up and skipping around, with the result being a sudden drop to exactly zero electrical resistance(!). This is obviously a very desirable property.
Its this pairing up of electrons, which are together known as Cooper pairs, that’s crucial for superconductivity Basically, as the temperature of a given material drops, suddenly the once-negligible attractive force between electrons becomes very significant. Electrons that would formerly repel each other are attracted. These pairs may then “condense” into a single unified ground energy state, or state of lowest possible energy. In this state, electrons are no longer allowed to scatter or really do anything on their own. The result is superconductivity. What’s weird about Jehn-Teller metals is that so far we really have no idea what causes the electrons within them to pair up.
In a conventional superconductor, they do it because they’re swapping phonons, which are excitations (“quasiparticles”) found within the molecular lattice of some material, and the effect is attraction. Again, this takes extremely cold temperatures. If Jehn-Teller metals involve some other electron pairing mechanism, that might mean the possibility of superconductivity occurring at not-so-cold temperatures. Researchers just have to figure out what that other mechanism is: “The relationship between the parent insulator, the normal metallic state above [superconducting temperatures], and the superconducting pairing mechanism is a key question in understanding all unconventional superconductors,” Prassides and co write in Science Advances.”
Breakthrough observation of Mott transition in a superconductor
by Joost Bruysters / September 11, 2015
“An international team of researchers, including the MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology at the University of Twente in The Netherlands and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, announced today in Science the observation of a dynamic Mott transition in a superconductor. The discovery experimentally connects the worlds of classical and quantum mechanics and illuminates the mysterious nature of the Mott transition. It also could shed light on non-equilibrium physics, which is poorly understood but governs most of what occurs in our world. The finding may also represent a step towards more efficient electronics based on the Mott transition.
Since its foundations were laid in the early part of the 20th century, scientists have been trying to reconcile quantum mechanics with the rules of classical or Newtonian physics (like how you describe the path of an apple thrown into the air—or dropped from a tree). Physicists have made strides in linking the two approaches, but experiments that connect the two are still few and far between; physics phenomena are usually classified as either quantum or classical, but not both. One system that unites the two is found in superconductors, certain materials that conduct electricity perfectly when cooled to very low temperatures. Magnetic fields penetrate the superconducting material in the form of tiny filaments called vortices, which control the electronic and magnetic properties of the materials.
These vortices display both classical and quantum properties, which led researchers to study them for access to one of the most enigmatic phenomena of modern condensed matter physics: the Mott insulator-to-metal transition. The Mott transition occurs in certain materials that according to textbook quantum mechanics should be metals, but in reality turn insulators. A complex phenomenon controlled by the interactions of many quantum particles, the Mott transition remains mysterious—even whether or not it’s a classical or quantum phenomenon is not quite clear. Moreover, scientists have never directly observed a dynamic Mott transition, in which a phase transition from an insulating to a metallic state is induced by driving an electrical current through the system; the disorder inherent in real systems disguises Mott properties.
At the University of Twente, researchers built a system containing 90,000 superconducting niobium nano-sized islands on top of a gold film. In this configuration, the vortices find it energetically easiest to settle into energy dimples in an arrangement like an egg crate—and make the material act as a Mott insulator, since the vortices won’t move if the applied electric current is small. When they applied a large enough electric current, however, the scientists saw a dynamic Mott transition as the system flipped to become a conducting metal; the properties of the material had changed as the current pushed it out of equilibrium.
The vortex system behaved exactly like an electronic Mott transition driven by temperature, said Valerii Vinokur, an Argonne Distinguished Fellow and corresponding author on the study. He and study co-author Tatyana Baturina, then at Argonne, analyzed the data and recognized the Mott behavior. “This experimentally materializes the correspondence between quantum and classical physics,” Vinokur said. “We can controllably induce a phase transition between a state of locked vortices to itinerant vortices by applying an electric current to the system,” said Hans Hilgenkamp, head of the University of Twente research group. “Studying these phase transitions in our artificial systems is interesting in its own right, but may also provide further insight in the electronic transitions in real materials.”
The system could further provide scientists with insight into two categories of physics that have been hard to understand: many-body systems and out-of-equilibrium systems. “This is a classical system that which is easy to experiment with and provides what looks like access to very complicated many-body systems,” said Vinokur. “It looks a bit like magic.” As the name implies, many-body problems involve a large number of particles interacting; with current theory they are very difficult to model or understand. “Furthermore, this system will be key to building a general understanding of out-of-equilibrium physics, which would be a major breakthrough in physics,” Vinokur said.
The Department of Energy named five great basic energy scientific challenges of our time; one of them is understanding and controlling out-of-equilibrium phenomena. Equilibrium systems—where there’s no energy moving around—are now understood quite well. But nearly everything in our lives involves energy flow, from photosynthesis to digestion to tropical cyclones, and we don’t yet have the physics to describe it well. Scientists think a better understanding could lead to huge improvements in energy capture, batteries and energy storage, electronics and more.”
– “Critical behavior at a dynamic vortex insulator-to-metal transition.” Science 11 September 2015: DOI: 10.1126/science.1260507
Superconductors are well-known for exhibiting a fun and fascinating property called the Meissner effect, as seen above. This happens when a superconductor is placed in an external magnetic field. Eerily, there is no magnetic field inside the superconductor and strange things start to happen: the material floats.
“Hydrogen sulfide—the stuff that makes rotten eggs stink—becomes a superconductor at a record high temperature, physicists in Germany have shown. When solidified, the compound conducts electricity without resistance at 203.5 K, about 70°C below the freezing point of water. The result may revive visions of superconductors that work at room temperature and magnetically levitated trains. But there’s a catch: Hydrogen sulfide works its magic only when squeezed to more than 100 million times atmospheric pressure, roughly one-third as high as the pressure in Earth’s core.
Low temperature superconductivity can be used to levitate objects but researchers dream of room-temperature versions of today’s devices. [Kiyoshi Takahase Segundo/Alamy]
Scientists know of a few kinds of superconductivity. In so-called conventional superconductivity, a metal such as niobium carries electricity without resistance when cooled to nearly absolute zero, or 0 K. The metal consists of a cagelike array of positively charged ions through which the negatively charged electrons flow. The electrons ordinarily lose energy as they deflect off the rattling ions. But at very low temperatures, the electrons pair. Deflecting an electron then requires breaking a pair. As there isn’t enough energy around to do that, the pairs flow freely.
But something must hold the paired electrons together. In a conventional superconductor, that glue is provided by vibrations of the ion lattice called phonons. Phonons hold only so strongly, so the record temperature for an ordinary superconductor was 39 K (or –234.5°C) using the compound magnesium diboride. However, in the 1980s physicists discovered a family of “high-temperature superconductors,” complex compounds containing copper and oxygen that become superconductors at far higher temperatures, and a decade ago, they found a similar family of iron and arsenic compounds. In those materials, the interactions of the electrons alone appear to provide the glue—although physicists aren’t sure how.
But even with these discoveries, some physicists still hoped to achieve higher transition temperatures with conventional superconductivity. As far back as the 1960s, Neil Ashcroft, a theorist at Cornell University, argued that at high pressures, solid hydrogen should become a superconducting metal. According to Ashcroft, the light hydrogen ions would shake with very high frequency phonons, the key to boosting the transition temperature. For decades, experimenters have searched for such superconductivity by squeezing bits of solid hydrogen between the tips of diamonds.
The apparatus the team led by Mikhail Eremets uses to generate extremely high pressures is amazingly handy. The researchers press the metal cell with Allen screws together. The high pressure thus created in the center of the cell, only diamonds resist. The gems operate like anvils that compress a sample. [Credit: Thomas Hartmann]
Alexander Drozdov and Mikhail Eremets, physicists at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany, and colleagues tried something slightly different last year: They squeezed a tiny sample of hydrogen sulfide and saw its electrical resistance vanish at 190 K, as they reported in December on the preprint server arXiv.org. That bested the record of 164 K for a copper-and-oxygen superconductor squeezed to 350,000 times atmospheric pressure. Some physicists were skeptical. Now, Drozdov and Eremets have put the doubts to rest by demonstrating a second sign of superconductivity. When exposed to a magnetic field, a superconductor should expel it, as free-flowing currents generate an internal field that cancels the applied one. Drozdov and Eremets see just that effect, as they report online today in Nature. That measurement was a significant feat, as the experimenters’ disk-shaped sample had a diameter smaller than the width of a human hair. The researchers now report that they’ve reached a transition temperature as high as 203.5 K.
The high transition temperature doesn’t present any major mysteries, however. Last November, theorists in China calculated that pressurized hydrogen sulfide should become a superconductor with a transition temperature between 191 K and 204 K—specifically as H2S breaks down to produce H3S, which does the superconducting. “We were lucky because this model immediately began to explain our results,” Eremets says. There is little doubt that, as predicted, the material is a conventional superconductor. When the researchers replaced the lighter hydrogen atoms with heavier atoms of deuterium (hydrogen with a neutron in its nucleus), the transition temperature fell by about 20%—just as expected if phonons provide the glue.
Is the incredible pressure really necessary for this kind of superconductivity? Maybe not, Eremets says. The pressure serves only to turn hydrogen sulfide into a metal, he says. So it may be possible to start with a compound that scientists can turn into a metal by tweaking its composition instead. Mazin is less optimistic. “It’s hard to conceive how these conditions could be achieved at ambient pressure,” he says. But rather than getting rid of the pressure, Norman predicts that researchers will do the opposite and look for new superconductors by squeezing other insulators. “In the last year, this is the big result,” he says. “It’s already having an effect on the community.”
Physicists achieve superconductivity at room temperature
by Bec Crew / 5 Dec 2014
“Physicists from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter have kept a piece of ceramic in a superconducting state, disproving the widely-held assumption that materials need to be cooled to temperatures of at least -140 degrees Celsius to achieve superconductivity. Superconducting materials have the potential to change everything that relies on electrical power, such as power grids, transportation, and renewable energy sources. This is because they’re able to transport electric currents without any resistance, which means they’re incredibly efficient and cost-effective to run. Except right now, they’re not, because in order to get a material to a superconducting state, it needs to be cooled to near absolute zero temperatures, which has really hampered the potential of this technology up to this point.
Over the past few decades, scientists have come to realise that metals cooled to temperatures of around -273 degrees Celsius using liquid nitrogen or helium aren’t the only materials capable of reaching a superconducting state. During the 1980s, it was discovered that ceramic materials can reach this state at significantly higher (and yet still extremely cold) temperatures of around -200 degrees Celsius. This is why they’re called high-temperature superconductors. One such ceramic material, called yttrium barium copper oxide (YBCO), has since been singled out, thanks to its great potential for use in a range of technical applications such as superconducting cables, electrical motors, and generators. Made from super-thin double layers of a copper oxide material stacked in-between layers made from barium, copper and oxygen, this material is designed to allow the bonding of electrons into what’s known as Cooper pairs, the team reports in a press release.
These Cooper pairs of electrons are able to ‘tunnel’ between the alternating layers “like ghosts can pass through walls, figuratively speaking – a typical quantum effect,” they report, but it was thought this could only occur at super-cooled temperatures. But then the physicists from Max Planck decided to see what would happen if they irradiated the YBCO ceramic material with infrared laser pulses. They found that for a fraction of a second, the ceramic becomes superconducting at room temperature. And when we say “a fraction of a second”, we mean a fraction. “It was only a few millionths of a millisecond,” says Adam Clark Estes at Gizmodo. “That’s a very, very brief lifespan for our amazing new room temperature superconductor. However, the successful experiment is proof that such a thing is possible.”
The team suspects this is because the pulses from the laser cause individual atoms in the crystal lattice structure of the ceramic to shift momentarily, which increases the superconductivity of the material. The team explains the results in a press release from the Max Planck Institute: “The infrared pulse had not only excited the atoms to oscillate, but had also shifted their position in the crystal as well. This briefly made the copper dioxide double layers thicker – by two picometres, or one hundredth of an atomic diameter – and the layer between them became thinner by the same amount. This in turn increased the quantum coupling between the double layers to such an extent that the crystal became superconducting at room temperature for a few picoseconds.” Publishing the results in the journal Nature, the team hopes the discovery will help drive the potential of superconductor technology in the future. “It could assist materials scientists to develop new superconductors with higher critical temperatures,” said lead researcher, physicist Roman Mankowsky. “And ultimately to reach the dream of a superconductor that operates at room temperature and needs no cooling at all.”
Elemental Effects on Mental Health
by Tori Rodriguez / Aug 13, 2015
“Zinc, copper, iron—these and many other elements play a crucial role in health and sickness. Beyond the well-known toxic effects of lead, it can be difficult to determine the precuse impacts of these metals because they interact with one another and with many types of molecules found in our body. Recent research has led to some key insights, however, which may lead to new treatments for mental illnesses.
Linking Zinc to Depression
Depression is tricky to treat because many patients do not respond to antidepressant medications. A growing body of evidence suggests that zinc deficiency may be a factor underlying depression in some cases—and zinc supplements can be an effective treatment for people whose levels are low. A meta-analysis published in December 2013 in Biological Psychiatry analyzed 17 studies and found that depressed people tended to have about 14 percent less zinc in their blood than most people do on average, and the deficiency was greater among those with more severe depression. In the brain, zinc is concentrated in glutamatergic neurons, which increase brain activity and play a role in neuroplasticity, explains one of the paper’s co-authors, Krista L. Lanctôt, a professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at the University of Toronto. “Those neurons feed into the mood and cognition circuitry,” she says.
Newer results increasingly point to a causal relation. Last September researchers at the University of Newcastle in Australia reported findings of two longitudinal studies that demonstrated an inverse relation between depression risk and dietary zinc intake. After adjusting for all known potential confounders, they found that the odds of developing depression among men and women with the highest zinc intake was about 30 to 50 percent lower than those with the lowest intake. Although previous studies have shown that zinc supplementation can augment the effects of antidepressant medications, research published in May in Nutritional Neuroscience is the first to investigate the effects of zinc alone on depressive symptoms. In the double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial, researchers assigned participants to one of two groups: every day for 12 weeks, one group received 30 milligrams of zinc; the other group received a placebo. At the end of the study period, the zinc group showed a steeper decline in its scores on a rigorous inventory of depression symptoms.
“The future treatment of depression is zinc sulfate,” says Atish Prakash, a postdoctoral fellow in the department of pharmacy at the MARA University of Technology in Malaysia, who co-authored a thorough review of studies on the role of zinc in brain disorders, published in April in Fundamental and Clinical Pharmacology. Researchers strongly caution against people trying zinc supplements on their own, however—when levels are too high, zinc can cause other complications. Working with a doctor is essential, and in most cases, eating a healthier diet is probably a better way to ensure optimal zinc levels than supplementation. Yet for those with depression who are also at high risk for zinc deficiency, including vegetarians, people with alcoholism, gastrointestinal issues or diabetes, and pregnant or lactating women, zinc may be just what the doctor ordered.
Improving Lithium Treatment
Lithium has been providing relief to patients with bipolar disorder for decades. Although it is considered the standard treatment for the illness, how it works—and why it does not work for at least half of patients who try it—remains largely a mystery. Recent study findings suggest that a hormonal mechanism may be a factor. In research published in July in the Journal of Molecular Neuroscience, scientists from several universities expanded on earlier work investigating the role of insulinlike growth factor (IGF1) in lithium sensitivity. (Scientific American is part of Springer Nature.) A 2013 paper by some of the authors of the newer study had found higher levels of the hormone in blood cells of bipolar patients who were responsive to lithium treatment, as compared with nonresponders. In the current study, researchers tested the effects of administering IGF1 to the blood cells of those same patients. Adding the hormone increased lithium sensitivity only in cells of nonresponders, which “proves that indeed IGF1 is strongly implicated in determining clinical response or resistance to lithium,” says study co-author Elena Milanesi, a postdoctoral fellow at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University in Israel. Further research will be needed to discern treatment possibilities, including supplemental use of the hormone or a similarly acting drug in lithium-resistant patients. Synthetic human IGF1 is already FDA-approved for human use in other kinds of disorders, Milanesi says, so she hopes clinical trials can get under way quickly.
Other Metals and the Mind
IRON: Iron deficiency impedes neurotransmission and cell metabolism, and research findingshave linked it with cognitive deficits in children and adults.
MAGNESIUM: Low magnesium intake has been implicated in anxiety and depression in studies of humans and rodents, and new research published in Acta Neuropsychiatrica suggests the relation is mediated by altered gut microbes, which have previously been linked with depression. In the study, mice fed a magnesium-deficient diet displayed an increase in depressive behavior and alterations in gut microbiota that were positively associated with neuroinflammation in the hippocampus.
MANGANESE: In research reported in theJournal of Alzheimer’s Disease, scientists from China and Japan investigated the role of manganese—a known neurotoxin at high levels—in the progression of cognitive decline. In 40 older adults, they found that manganese levels were significantly correlated with scores on assessments of cognitive function and dementia and that levels of the characteristic protein tangles of Alzheimer’s disease increased as manganese levels did. Excessive manganese is usually caused by airborne pollutants or pesticides, but eating too little iron can increase manganese absorption—so a healthy diet is key here, too.
If your doctor advises you to take a supplement, by all means, you should take it. Yet we cannot emphasize enough the importance of consulting a health care provider before starting any kind of supplement regimen, especially one that includes the trace elements discussed in this overview. Many of these elements can cause serious complications at high levels as well as low levels, and it is easy to accidentally go overboard. In addition, it can be hard to tell whether a person truly needs supplements—zinc, for example, cannot be reliably measured in blood or urine. Researchers use a complex variety of measurements and indicators to determine patients’ zinc levels—something the average doctor’s office cannot replicate. In addition, most researchers and physicians believe that improving a person’s diet is a far better way to reach healthy levels of these elements. Eating whole foods such as fresh meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds will give most people the nutrients they need. Avoiding highly processed foods with added sugars and fats is key, too, because those types of foods can impede your body’s absorption of nutrients.”
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