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Copper is an essential nutrient for all known plants and animals. Some animals use copper as part of their oxygen transport system, with hemocyanin (a copper-based protein) taking the place of hemoglobin (the iron-based protein humans and most vertebrates use). In these creatures, oxygenated blood is blue instead of red.
In humans, copper plays a key role in a number of essential metabolic reactions. Copper indirectly functions as an antioxidant through its essential role in the superoxide dismutase (SOD) class of enzymes. Other biological roles for copper include oxidizing ferrous iron to ferric iron (a reaction needed for hemoglobin synthesis), and the formation of lysyl oxidase, a copper-requiring enzyme with roles in collagen synthesis and wound healing.
Copper is also needed in reactions related to respiration and the release of energy. Recent research indicates a potential role for dietary copper in addressing heart disease, perhaps by undermining the composition and progression of atherosclerotic lesions.
Absorption of copper is relatively high in humans, with general bioavailbility between 55% and 75% except at very high intakes (where it can fall to less than 10%). The best food sources include oysters and shellfish, nuts, grains, and legumes, while the copper content of vegetables, fruits, and meats varies considerably.
Copper is relatively nontoxic to most mammals, including humans. An FAO/WHO Expert Committee specified intakes of 0.5mg per kg body weight as safe, or ~25mg per day for a typical adult.
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Copper is an essential cofactor for oxidation-reduction reactions involving copper-containing oxidases. Copper enzymes regulate various physiologic pathways, such as energy production, iron metabolism, connective tissue maturation, and neurotransmission. (More information) Copper deficiency can result from malnutrition, malabsorption, or excessive zinc intake and can be acquired or inherited. Symptoms include deficiencies in blood cells, bone and connective tissue abnormalities, and neurologic disorders.
Organ meats, shellfish, nuts, seeds, wheat-bran cereals, and whole-grain products are good sources of copper. Copper toxicity is rare and often associated with genetic defects of copper metabolism.
Copper is a critical functional component of several essential enzymes known as cuproenzymes. Some of the physiologic functions known to be copper-dependent are discussed below.
The copper-dependent enzyme, cytochrome c oxidase, plays a critical role in cellular energy production. By catalyzing the reduction of molecular oxygen (O2) to water (H2O), cytochrome c oxidase generates an electrical gradient used by the mitochondria to create the vital energy-storing molecule, ATP.
Connective tissue formation
Central nervous system
Neurotransmitter synthesis Dopamine β-hydroxylase catalyzes the conversion of dopamine to the neurotransmitter, norepinephrine.
Formation and maintenance of myelin The myelin sheath is made of phospholipids whose synthesis depends on cytochrome c oxidase activity.
Melanin formation The cuproenzyme, tyrosinase, is required for the formation of the pigment melanin. Melanin is formed in cells called melanocytes and plays a role in the pigmentation of the hair, skin, and eyes.
Superoxide dismutase (SOD) functions as an antioxidant by catalyzing the conversion of superoxide radicals (free radicals or ROS) to hydrogen peroxide, which can subsequently be reduced to water by other antioxidant enzymes.
Iron Adequate copper nutritional status is necessary for normal iron metabolism and red blood cell formation. Anemia is a clinical sign of copper deficiency, and iron has been found to accumulate in the livers of copper-deficient animals, indicating that copper (via the copper-containing ceruloplasmin) is required for iron transport to the bone marrow for red blood cell formation.
High supplemental zinc intakes of 50 mg/day or more for extended periods of time may result in copper deficiency. High dietary zinc intakes increase the synthesis of an intestinal cell protein called metallothionein, which binds certain metals and prevents their absorption by trapping them in intestinal cells. Metallothionein has a stronger affinity for copper than zinc, so high levels of metallothionein induced by excess zinc cause a decrease in copper absorption.
High fructose diets have exacerbated copper deficiency in rats but not in pigs whose gastrointestinal systems are more like those of humans. Very high levels of dietary fructose (20% of total calories) did not result in copper depletion in humans, suggesting that fructose intake does not result in copper depletion at levels relevant to normal diets.
Although vitamin C supplements have produced copper deficiency in guinea pigs (17), the effect of vitamin C supplements on copper nutritional status in humans is less clear. Two small studies in healthy, young adult men indicate that the oxidase activity of ceruloplasmin may be impaired by relatively high doses of supplemental vitamin C.
Clinically evident or frank dietary copper deficiency is relatively uncommon. Serum copper and ceruloplasmin levels may fall to 30% of normal in cases of severe copper deficiency. Hypocupremia (low copper content in blood) is also observed in genetic disorders of copper metabolism, such as aceruloplasminemia and, paradoxically, in Wilson's disease, which are not linked to dietary copper deficiency. One of the most common clinical signs of copper deficiency is an anemia that is unresponsive to iron therapy but corrected by copper supplementation. The complete article can be read here.
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Copper is a mineral that is found throughout the body. It helps your body make red blood cells and keeps nerve cells and your immune system healthy. It also helps form collagen, a key part of bones and connective tissue. Copper may also act as an antioxidant, reducing free radicals that can damage cells and DNA. Copper helps the body absorb iron. Your body also needs copper to make energy.
Your body does not need much copper. Many people do not get enough copper in their diet, but it is rare to be truly deficient in copper. Signs of possible copper deficiency include anemia, low body temperature, bone fractures and osteoporosis, low white blood cell count, irregular heartbeat, loss of pigment from the skin, and thyroid problems.
People who take high amounts of zinc, iron, or vitamin C may need more copper, but you should ask your health care provider before taking copper supplements. Too much copper can be dangerous.
Foods that contain copper include oysters, liver, whole grain breads and cereals, shellfish, dark green leafy vegetables, dried legumes, nuts, and chocolate.
Taking copper supplements may help people who have anemia because of copper deficiency. Copper works together with iron to form red blood cells.
Animal studies suggest that taking copper by mouth may help prevent and slow arthritis, but evidence in humans is lacking. Copper bracelets are often marketed to people with both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis as a way to relieve symptoms, but there is no evidence that they work.
There is some slight evidence that taking copper along with zinc, manganese, and calcium might help slow the rate of bone loss among postmenopausal women.
Copper is found in these foods:
· Seafood, such as oysters, squid, lobster, mussels,
crab, and clams
· Organ meats, such as beef liver, kidneys, and heart
· Nuts and nut butters, such as cashews, filberts,
macadamia nuts, pecans, almonds, and pistachios
· Legumes, such as soybeans, lentils, navy beans, and
· Chocolate, such as unsweetened or semisweet baker's
chocolate and cocoa
· Enriched cereals, such as bran flakes, shredded
wheat, and raisin bran
· Fruits and vegetables, such as dried fruits,
mushrooms, tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes,
bananas, grapes, and avocado
· Blackstrap molasses
· Black pepper
Multivitamins that include minerals usually have copper. Copper is also available as a separate oral supplement, and can be found as a topical gel, and in topical solutions.
Because of the potential for side effects and interactions with medications, you should take dietary supplements only under the supervision of a knowledgeable health care provider.
Too much copper can cause nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, headache, dizziness, weakness, diarrhea, and a metallic taste in the mouth. Copper toxicity is rare but can cause heart problems, jaundice, coma, even death. DO NOT use copper supplements if you have diarrhea.
Water containing copper concentrations greater than 6 mg/L may cause stomach problems, such as nausea and vomiting. If you have well water, you may want to get the water tested for mineral content.
You can also get copper without knowing it from using copper cookware and from water coming through new copper pipes. Avoid unlined copper cookware. Copper can leach out of pipes into water, especially hot water, if it sits in copper pipes for a long time. Cook with cold water to avoid problems. Flushing the pipes by running cold water for 2 to 3 minutes can reduce copper. If you have blue-green stains around your faucet or sink, or if you detect a metallic taste to your water, you may want to have your water tested by a certified laboratory.
Children and people with Wilson disease (which causes a build up of copper in the brain, liver, kidneys, and eyes), and people with hereditary conditions including idiopathic copper toxicosis and childhood cirrhosis, should not take copper supplements. The complete article can be read here.
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Role in Health Support
Copper is one of the co-factors for one form of an enzyme called superoxide dismutase (SOD). SOD is one of the major antioxidant enzymes in the body. As a measure of how important SOD is, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis—also known as Lou Gehrig's disease—is thought to be the result of an underfunctioning (SOD) enzyme.
From recent studies where young volunteers were fed a copper-depleted diet, reduced SOD function was an early result. In fact, these changes were apparent within the first month of the experimental diet.
In more advanced cases of copper deficiency, including people who have undergone gastric bypass surgery, this loss of antioxidant protection over a period of years can lead to irreversible damage to the nervous system.
Bone and Tissue Integrity
Copper is required to manufacture collagen, a major structural protein in the body. When copper deficiency becomes severe, tissue integrity—particularly bones and blood vessels—can begin to break down.
Copper plays two key roles in energy production. First, it helps with incorporation of iron into red blood cells, preventing anemia. Second, it is involved with generation of energy from carbohydrates inside of cells.
Animal studies have demonstrated that copper-deficient diets lead to increases in blood cholesterol levels. In humans, this appears to be true in some situations, but not all. This should not be a surprise, as human diets are much more varied than those of laboratory animals. Interestingly, the effect of copper deficiency appears to be through increased activity of an enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase—the same enzyme targeted by the most commonly prescribed cholesterol medications.
Summary of Food Sources
With the single exception of shrimp, all of the very good or excellent sources of copper among the World's Healthiest Foods are plant foods. These best copper sources are varied, however, and come from many different food groups.
Our top three sources of copper are sesame seeds, cashews, and soybeans. Any of these three foods will bring at least three-quarters of your daily copper requirement. Shiitake and crimini mushrooms are also excellent copper sources and will provide 40 to 75% of your daily need.
Many of the excellent food sources of copper are leafy greens, including turnip greens, spinach, Swiss chard, kale, and mustard greens. Asparagus and summer squash are two other excellent vegetable sources of copper.
The good and very good sources of copper include many legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. For example, flax seeds, walnuts, and garbanzo beans are rated as very good sources of copper.
Combining a grain- or legume-based recipe with an excellent vegetable source of copper could very easily provide the entire daily requirement of this mineral.
The complete article can be read here.
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