COPPER and HEALTH*
Copper is a red-brown metal, a chemical element with an atomic number of 29, symbol Cu.
It is a mineral that is found throughout the body. Copper, along with iron, helps in the formation of red blood cells. It also helps in keeping the blood vessels, nerves, immune system and bones healthy, and helps form collagen, a key part of bones and connective tissue.
Copper may act as an antioxidant, neutralising free radicals that can damage cells and DNA.
Copper aids the absorption of iron, and the body needs it to make energy.
The amount of copper required in the diet is not great.
Food Sources of Copper
Foods that contain copper include:
Seafoods, such as oysters, squid (calamari), lobster, mussels, crab and clams.
Organ meats, such as liver, kidneys and heart
Whole grains, as in breads and cereals
Dark green leafy vegetables
Legumes, such as soybeans, lentils and peanuts
Nuts and nut butters
Vegetables, including potatoes and sweet potatoes
Fruits, such as bananas, grapes and avocado
As stated above, the amount of copper required in the diet is not great. Although many people may be relatively or mildly deficient in copper, it is rare to have a true deficiency.
Signs of possible copper deficiency include:
Low body temperature
Bone fractures and osteoporosis
Low white cell count
Loss of pigment from the skin
People who consume a high intake of zinc, iron and vitamin C may need to increase their copper intake.
Side Effects of Excess Copper
Too much copper can be dangerous.
Normally people have enough copper in the foods consumed. In large amounts, copper is poisonous. Excessive intake of copper can result in hepatitis, kidney problems, brain disorders and other problems.
Wilson's disease is a rare inherited disorder. It leads to deposits of copper in the liver, brain and other organs, with resultant dysfunction of these organs.
Clinical Uses of Copper
Taking copper supplements may help those who have anaemia because of copper deficiency. Copper works synergistically with iron in the formation of red cells.
Although animal studies suggest that copper taken orally may help prevent or slow the progression of arthritis, there is little clinical evidence to support this. Copper bracelets are marketed to reduce the symptoms of both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. However, there is no good evidence to show that they work.
There is some evidence that shows that taking copper with zinc, manganese and calcium might help post menopausal women slow down the rate of bone loss.
Supplements and Dosage
The best way to get enough copper is through your diet. For the body to utilize copper, it is necessary to have a balance of zinc and manganese.
Multivitamins that include minerals usually have copper. Copper is also available as a separate oral supplement.
Taken as a supplement, the Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine (J Am Diet Assoc. 2001) recommends:
0 - 6 months: 200 micrograms per day (mcg/day)
7 - 12 months: 220 mcg/day
1 - 3 years: 340 mcg/day
4 - 8 years: 440 mcg/day
9 - 13 years: 700 mcg/day
Adolescents and Adults:
Males and females aged 14 - 18 years: 890 mcg/day
Males and females aged 19 and older: 900 mcg/day
Higher dosage is required in pregnancy and when breast feeding, in the region of 1300 mcg/day.
If you elect to take a copper supplement, you should also take a zinc supplement (8-15 mg zinc for every 1 mg (1000 mcg) copper).
Copper is a trace element that is essential for health. It is rare for there to be a deficiency.
The best way to obtain the daily requirement of copper and other essential vitamins, minerals and trace elements is to eat a balanced diet that contains a variety of foods, as set out in my March 2009 newsletter Foods for Health.
*Copyright 2013: The Huntly Centre.
Disclaimer: All material in the huntlycentre.com.au website is provided for informational or educational purposes only. Consult a health professional regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations expressed herein, with respect to your symptoms or medical condition.
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