Copper is a mineral that is essential for body functioning. On the other hand, it is a metal occurring in the periodic table at atomic number 29. Also, it is known as the best conductor for both heat and electricity.
Its chemical formula is Cu.
Copper Food Sources
Some of the high copper-containing foods include:
- Shellfish: clams, oyster, lobsters, crab, shrimp
- Whole grains
- Dark leafy greens
- Dried fruit
- Organ meats eg liver and kidneys
- Nuts including cashew and almonds
Also, it can occur in supplements but it is most preferable to take copper from food sources. These will avoid imbalances and risks to the human body.
Copper Daily Requirements
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) is around 900 micrograms (mcg) a day for adolescents and adults.
The upper limit for adults aged 19 years and above is 10,000 mcg, or 10 milligrams (mg) a day. An intake above this level could be toxic.
When taking copper as supplements some certain recommendations apply. For example
- For low levels of the mineral(copper deficiency): doses up to 0.1 mg/kg of cupric sulfate per day.
- In osteoporosis: 2.5 mg copper combined with zinc 15 mg, 5 mg manganese, and 1000 mg calcium per day.
Copper Health Benefits
The mineral performs some of the functions combined with other minerals. Together with iron, it enables the body to form red blood cells. It helps maintain healthy bones, blood vessels, nerves, and immune function, and it contributes to iron absorption.
Other functional health benefits include:
Low copper levels have been linked to high cholesterol and high blood pressure. These are mainly the causes for clogging of the arteries which will develop to heart failure.
In certain research, low copper levels in animals have been linked to cardiovascular diseases. However, more research is needed to prove it in humans.
Opposite to other minerals, low copper levels will help in neuron signaling. High copper levels are known to reduce neuron signaling.
This is per Prof. Chris Chang, Sackler Sabbatical Exchange Program at Berkeley, California. Prof. Chris Chang did research and said that copper is like a brake or dimmer switch one for each nerve cell.
According to some scientific research, low amounts of copper will lead to neutropenia. ‘Neutropenia/ neutrophils’ is the deficiency of white blood cells.
Cu works hand in hand with calcium in bone formation. Thus severe copper deficiency is associated with lower bone mineral density and a higher risk of osteoporosis.
Cu is an essential requirement for collagen production. Collagen is the main protein in the body and a major component of connective tissues. Cu has antioxidant properties that help to maintain collagen and elastin. Thus preventing the skin from aging.
Without enough components of the mineral, one will develop damaged connective tissue or scaffolding bones developed from poor collagen.
Animal studies have indicated that copper may help prevent or delay arthritis, and people wear copper bracelets for this purpose. However, no human studies have confirmed this.
Cu contains antioxidant properties that help reduce the production of free radicals. If the body leaves free radicals, they damage the cell and DNA leading to cancer and other diseases.
Because of its role in facilitating iron uptake, its deficiency can produce anemia-like symptoms, neutropenia, bone abnormalities, hypopigmentation, impaired growth, increased incidence of infections, osteoporosis, hyperthyroidism, and abnormalities in glucose and cholesterol metabolism. Conversely, Wilson’s disease causes an accumulation of copper in body tissues.
Severe deficiency can be found by testing for low plasma or serum copper levels, low ceruloplasmin, and low red blood cell superoxide dismutase levels; these are not sensitive to marginal copper status. The “cytochrome c oxidase activity of leucocytes and platelets” has been stated as another factor in deficiency, but the results have not been confirmed by replication
Copper Side Effects
Taking Cu orally will have reduced or no effects on human health. However, its supplements will cause several effects. For example, 1 gram of copper sulfate will increase the chances of kidney failure or even death.
Symptoms of copper overdose
- bloody diarrhea
- stomach pain
- low blood pressure
- heart problems.