Copper is an essential trace mineral. Although not required in large amounts, it has been found to be involved in many processes necessary for optimal health. Copper is instrumental in the production of hemoglobin, the primary component of red blood cells, and deficiency has been linked to certain forms of anemia.
Soluble copper can be absorbed from the stomach. Copper in foods is in bound form and must undergo digestion before it can be released and absorbed in the body.
Foods containing copper include chocolate, dark green leafy vegetables, dried legumes, nuts, organ meats, oysters, shellfish, whole grain breads and cereals.
Tissue elevations only occur when intakes are 200 to 500 times above normal. Symptoms include gastrointestinal track disturbances, salivation, and a metallic taste in the mouth, headache, dizziness, and weakness. Severe toxicity causes hypertension, liver damage, kidney failure, and death. Occasional copper toxicity has been reported in individuals who live in houses with copper water pipes where copper is extracted into the drinking water.
Functions in the Body
- Determines the integrity of bone, cartilage, skin, and tendons.
- Stimulates the absorption of iron.
- Required for the construction and function of hemoglobin, and, plays a central role in the transport of oxygen throughout the body.
- Involved in the production of collagen and elastin, which are the proteins that provide the structural elasticity to tissues in the blood vessels, lungs, and skin.
Symptoms & Causes of Deficiency
Severe copper deficiency is rare, but moderate copper deficiency is common since the diet of many Americans is low in this mineral. The symptoms of copper deficiency include; anemia, breakdown of connective tissue, fatigue, kinky hair, loss of color in the hair and skin, low body temperature, nervous system disorders, reduced resistance to infection, and various cardiovascular problems. Zinc interferes with copper absorption. High intake of zinc supplements can lead to copper deficiency. Menkes’ disease, also called kinky or steely hair syndrome is a genetic defect in copper absorption characterized by stunted growth, abnormalities in cardiovascular and skeletal development, progressive cognitive decline, and premature death. Studies have shown that copper deficiency is associated with elevated cholesterol and triglycerides, and the development of atherosclerosis. Copper deficiency may play a role.