Copper: benefits, sources, contraindications

opper is one of the essential minerals for the human body. It is present in all tissues of the body, the largest amounts being in the liver, brain, heart, kidneys and skeletal muscles. It helps to maintain a normal metabolism, contributes to supporting the health of the bone system and the optimal functioning of the nervous system. The body cannot produce copper on its own, so the mineral must be obtained through an adequate diet.

Usually, the body’s required amount of copper is obtained from food. Although the deficiency is rare, such cases can become dangerous for the patient.

When deficiency occurs, it is most often caused by inadequate nutrition. If the diet is not the problem, it could be a diagnosis, such as celiac disease. Also, surgical interventions in the digestive tract can affect copper absorption. Surprisingly, even consuming too much zinc can lead to copper deficiency, because it competes unfairly when it comes to absorption.

Why do we need copper in the body?

At first mention, the idea of ​​copper might make you think of gas pipes, coins, statuettes, cables and radiators. However, let’s not lose sight of the fact that we are talking about a mineral that plays an important role in general health. Specialists from all over the world have conducted numerous studies from which we can draw conclusions about the benefits of copper on the body:

  • together with iron, it helps the formation of red blood cells;
  • maintains the health of nerve cells and blood vessels;
  • supports the activity of the immune system;
  • helps the formation of collagen and maintains bone health;
  • protects damaged cells;
  • participates in the absorption of iron;
  • turns sugar into energy;
  • can contribute to cardiovascular health;
  • may have an antioxidant function.

Recommended daily dose of copper

Specialists from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine have developed a set of reference values ​​used for planning and evaluating the nutrient intake of healthy people. Here is also copper, a nutrient whose daily dosage varies according to age and sex. Here are the daily reorders:

  • newborns – 6 months: 200 mcg;
  • babies 7-12 months: 220 mcg;
  • girls and boys 1-3 years: 340 mcg;
  • girls and boys 4-8 years: 440 mcg;
  • girls and boys 9-13 years: 700 mcg;
  • adolescents 12 – 18 years: 890 mcg;
  • adults >19 years: 900 mcg;
  • pregnant women: 1000 mcg;
  • lactating women: 1300 mcg.

Symptoms of copper deficiency

Copper deficiency is signaled by symptoms that can usually be overlooked. However, there are also cases when these are similar to the specific manifestations of certain diseases. Here are the symptoms to watch out for:

  • states of fatigue and weakness, maybe even anemia (copper is essential for the absorption of iron from the intestines);
  • weakened immune system;
  • weak and fragile bones (osteoporosis);
  • learning and memory problems;
  • loss of coordination while walking;
  • increased sensitivity to low temperatures;
  • loss of pigment in the skin and hair;
  • sight problems;
  • thyroid problems.

Causes of copper deficiency

When nutritional goals are not reached, copper deficiency occurs. There is, however, the situation where even though the recommended daily dose is reached, the deficiency still occurs. Such situations can be based on the following causes:

  • celiac disease;
  • surgical interventions at the level of the digestive tract;
  • a high intake of zinc(over 150 mg/day) or vitamin C (over 1500 mg per day), because these minerals compete with copper for absorption in the intestine;
  • feeding the newborn with cow’s milk, instead of breast milk or milk formula;
  • Menkesdisease (a rare genetic disorder with neurodegenerative manifestations that affects the way copper is transported in the body).

Too much copper in the body, a rare but not impossible situation

Excess copper is encountered quite rarely and is never caused by food. Instead, it can be caused by the consumption of contaminated water, the toxicity of heavy metals and the administration of too high a dose of copper. In such cases, the body will slow down the absorption in response to the intake of the mineral.

Taking no more than 10 milligrams of copper per day is safe. Attention, however, the administration of one gram or more of copper could lead to symptoms of toxicity, even failure of some organs and, ultimately, death.

The patient with excess copper experiences the following symptoms:

  • stomach ache;
  • nausea and vomiting;
  • diarrhea;
  • headaches;
  • dizziness;
  • states of weakness;
  • metallic taste in the mouth;

There are also severe symptoms that can include:

  • liver failure;
  • renal insufficiency;
  • dementia;
  • chest pains.

The best dietary sources of copper

Copper is a mineral necessary in small quantities for the proper functioning of the body. The body cannot produce it by itself, but it is obtained through food. Here are the best dietary sources of copper:

  • veal liver;
  • oysters;
  • lobster;
  • salmon;
  • spirulina;
  • shiitake mushrooms;
  • oleaginous fruits, such as almonds and cashews;
  • seeds, such as sesame, millet and sunflower;
  • green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, Swiss chard;
  • black chocolate;
  • potato;
  • tofu;
  • chickpea;
  • wheat pasta.

Warnings regarding the administration of copper

Although not having enough copper in the body is a more common situation than having too much, avoid administering such dietary supplements without a set of blood tests and a discussion with your doctor. It is good to know that the mineral can interact with contraceptive pills, hormone therapy, certain anti-inflammatories, treatments for gout, treatments for ulcers and gastric reflux and zinc supplements.


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