Alan R. Gaby, M.D.
It has been reported that copper is less bioavailable
from a vegetarian diet, compared to a mixed diet, possibly because of
the high content of fiber and phytate in vegetarian diets. This finding
suggests that a vegetarian diet may be of value in the treatment of
Wilson's disease, a disorder caused by copper accumulation. Two patients
with Wilson's showed improvement on a vegetarian diet, despite being
almost totally noncompliant with anti-copper medication.
COMMENT: Wilson's disease is treated primarily with penicillamine,
a drug that is not without side effects. Recent evidence that Wilson's
disease can be controlled by zinc therapy is encouraging. The present
study suggest that dietary modification is also helpful. It is possible
that a combination of diet and zinc supplements will eliminate the need
for penicillamine in some cases.
The typical American diet contains only about 50%
of the RDA for copper. Since, as the present study indicates,.the copper
in a vegetarian diet is less bioavailable, some vegetarians may be at
risk for developing copper deficiency.
Brewer GJ, et al. Does a vegetarian diet control Wilson's disease?
J Am Coll Nutr 1993;12:527-530.