What is copper?
Copper is an essential trace mineral that cannot be made by our body and must be obtained through diet. It is vital to the health of all humans and animals that contributes to organ functions and metabolic processes, such as red blood cell formation, energy production, aid in iron absorption, and nerves, immune system, and bone health.
Good and bad
Like all essential elements, too much or too little intake of copper could make corresponding condition of copper excess or deficiency.
A deficiency in copper is uncommon in developed countries. However, if your diet contains mostly refined carbohydrates, processed meats and dairy products, you are at a risk of deficiency. The symptoms may include anemia, lower resistance to infections, joint and muscle pain, weak bones and low body temperature. Severe deficiency could lead to arthritis and osteoporosis.
Copper is known to be toxic in large doses. High levels can lead to copper poisoning which causes vomiting, diarrhea, kidney and liver damage. Long term effect may increase the risk of schizophrenia, cardiovascular disease and rheumatoid arthritis. The upper tolerance level for average adult is 10mg daily, which is equivalent to 2.5 ounces of beef liver.
Copper health benefits:
1. Improves immune function
Copper is known to play an important role in the maintenance of immune system. Inadequate copper intake can lead to neutropenia, a lower concentration of white blood cells (neutrophils). The main function of white blood cells in the body is to fight off bacteria and other organisms to stop infection. The fewer white blood cells you have, the weaker immunity which makes you more susceptible to infectious diseases.
2. Bone and tissue health
Copper is required in our body to manufacture collagen, a major structural protein. Also, it is involved in the cell maintenance that related to every part of the body tissues, copper is important for preventing joint and muscle pain. Severe deficiency is associated with lower bone density and an increased risk of osteoporosis and arthritis.
3. Nervous system and Cognitive function
Copper is necessary for healthy cognitive function and neurodevelopment support. It’s believed that copper enables neural pathways to important cognitive functions such as creativity, memory and communication. Both deficiency and excess of copper can damage brain cells which has been associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
4. Maintains cardiovascular health
Severe copper deficiency could cause heart abnormalities and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. It has the antioxidant ability to protect LDL cholesterol and control triglyceride levels. This decrease the chances of cardiovascular diseases like atherosclerosis, heart attack and stroke.
Both a nutritional and a toxic element, our body only requires 2mg of copper a day for normal metabolism. It is found in a wide variety of foods, and some best sources are organ meats, shellfish and nuts.
You cannot obtain sufficient amount of copper from diet which are mostly refined carbohydrates, dairy products and processed meats; supplementation is an alternative way to get adequate intake of copper. A good multimineral tablet should contain roughly 10 times more zinc than copper (e.g. zinc 10mg, copper 1mg), because copper and zinc are strongly antagonistic. In addition, always choose copper gluconate for supplementation form that improves the bioavailability.
Food sources high in copper: Liver, oyster, crab meat, clam, cashew nut, shiitake mushroom, sesame seed, sunflower seed, almond, kale, chocolate