Our body tissues contain copper. Copper helps in metabolism and the normal functioning of enzymes. A balanced diet provides us with the required amount of copper. Copper is present in the Earth’s crust. Therefore, the surface and ground water which we use for drinking contains copper.
What Is Copper?
Copper is a metal and occurs as native copper or mineral. Copper is a trace mineral. Our body contains 75 to 100 milligrams copper. Copper absorption occurs in the gut. Processing of copper occurs in the liver, from where it is distributed to the body tissues.
Food Sources Of Copper
Some foods which contain copper are whole grains, nuts, turnip greens, sesame seeds, garlic, beets, dried legumes, black pepper, barley, lentils, summer squash, asparagus, chard, mustard greens and shiitake. Copper is found in crimini mushrooms, sunflower seeds, winter squash, dark leafy vegetables, shrimp, lima beans, yeast, chocolate, cherries, tofu, calf’s liver, whole grain bread, sweet potato, beans, potatoes.
Some sources of copper are eggplant, green peas, winter squash, dark leafy vegetables, romaine lettuce, fennel, buckwheat, walnuts, flaxseeds, pineapple, ginger, tomatoes, olives, quinoa, spelt and raspberries. Organ meats like beef kidney and liver contain copper. The mineral is also present in dried fruits like prunes and cocoa. Copper is present in seafood like squid, lobster, crab, shellfish, oysters, clams and mussels.
Some nuts that contain copper are cashew nuts, Macadamia nuts, almonds and pistachios. Some other sources of copper are soybeans, garbanzo beans, blackstrap molasses, navy beans, enriched cereals, shredded wheat, avocado, spinach, kale, tempeh, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, bran flakes, scallops, sweet potato, miso, raisin bran, banana, grapes.
Functions And Benefits Of Copper
As a constituent of enzymes, copper helps in many physiological processes. In combination with Iron, copper helps in red blood cells or RBC formation. Copper is important for the health of blood vessels and immune system. Copper also keeps the nerves healthy. It helps in the preservation of the myelin sheath, which covers the nerves. It helps in the phospholipids synthesis present in the myelin sheath.
As a component of the enzyme lysyl oxidase, copper helps in collagen as well as elastin synthesis. These proteins are constituents of the bone as well as connective tissues. It helps in the absorption and utilization of Iron. Copper is a constituent of the compound ceruloplasmin, which transports copper to the body tissues. It also helps in the production of energy.
Copper proteins help in the transportation of biological electronas well as oxygen. Copper containing proteins help in the processing of oxygen. In combination with iron, copper helps in oxygen reduction in aerobicrespiration by cytochrome c oxidase. Copper is a constituent of proteins which help in the detoxification of superoxides.
Copper helps in the production of the pigment melanin. It helps in energy production. It also plays an important role in blood clotting and the normal functioning of the thyroid glands. It helps in the production of thyroxine hormone. As an antioxidant, Copper helps in the elimination of free radicals that harm the cell and DNA. Copper helps in the slowing of bone loss in postmenopausal women.
Copper helps in the treatment of many diseases like allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, baldness, stomach ulcers, hypothyroid disease, anemia, HIV/AIDS, periodontal disease, bed sores, leukemia and heart disease.
The daily requirement of copper for infants who are 0-6 months old is 200 mcg per day. Infants who are 7-12 months old need 220 mcg per day. Children who are 1-3 years old need 340 mcg per day. Children who are 4-8 years old need 440 mcg per day.
Children who are 9-13 years old need 700 mcg per day. Males and females who are 14-18 years old need 890 mcg per day. Males and females who are 19 years old and above this age group need 900 mcg per day. Pregnant women need 1000 mcg copper per day while breastfeeding women need 1,300 mcg per day.
Causes Of Copper Deficiency
Copper deficiency can be due to the Bariatric surgery. It affects obese people who undergo gastric bypass surgery for controlling weight. This can lead to a difficulty in the copper absorption, resulting in a deficiency. Another cause of the copper deficiency is high zinc intake for the treatment of cold, sinusitis, sickle cell disease, acne, ulcer and memory impairment.
High intake of zinc can be in the form of vitamin supplements and denture creams. Another cause of copper deficiency is Menkes disease, a genetic disease with fatal symptoms like floppy muscles, seizures, low temperature and steel colored rough hair. Copper deficiency is common in the elderly people.
Symptoms Of Copper Deficiency
Patients who have copper deficiency can have symptoms like anemia, low body temperature, joint problems, high level of LDL cholesterol, low level of HDL cholesterol and low amounts of white blood cells.
There can be osteoporosis, loss of skin pigment, thyroid problems and irregular heartbeat. The patient can have weakness, fatigue, infections, irregular heartbeat and skin sores. There can be ruptured blood vessels, breathing problem, loss of hair and skin pigment and poor thyroid function.
Copper deficiency may lead to hematological disorders like myelodysplasia, leukopenia and neutropenia. Symptoms of hematological diseases are symptoms of anemia like tiredness and fatigue. Copper plays an important role in Iron uptake. Therefore, copper deficiency can lead to anemia.
Symptoms of anemia are bone abnormalities, infections, glucose abnormality, hypopigmentation, osteoporosis, hyperthyroidism, impaired growth and cholesterol metabolism abnormality.
Copper deficiency causes neurological diseases like sensory ataxia and spasticity. There can be visual loss due to eye diseases like peripheral neuropathy and myelopathy. There may be optic neuropathy. Patients who suffer from myelopathy have walking or gait difficulty due to sensory ataxia.
The patient has a problem in balancing while walking and can have unstable walk. There can be torso tremors due to which there are jerks.
Patients who suffer from peripheral neuropathy can have tingling and numbness in the limbs. The patient has diminished sensation. Some patients can be disabled, depending on wheelchairs or canes for moving around.
Patients who suffer from optic neuropathy can have vision loss as well as color vision loss.
Normally, copper toxicity does not affect humans as the transport system controls copper absorption and excretion. However, when there is a transport system failure due to autosomal recessive mutations, it leads to Wilson’s disease in which there is copper accumulation in the body organs. The patient can also have liver cirrhosis. This mainly affects people who inherit defective genes.
Copper over dosage is poisonous and can cause hepatitis, kidney and brain diseases. Overdose can cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness and weakness. There can be stomach pain and cramps, diarrhea, headache, nausea, liver damage and metallic taste. Copper toxicity can lead to heart disease, postpartum depression, and coma. There can be jaundice and death.