Copper

Copper is an essential mineral. It is naturally present in some foods and is available as a dietary supplement. It is a cofactor for several enzymes involved in energy production, iron metabolism, neuropeptide activation, connective tissue synthesis, and neurotransmitter synthesis. It is also needed for various physiologic processes such as development of new blood vessels, hormone regulation, brain development, skin pigmentation, and immune system functioning. Also, defense against oxidative damage (too many free radicals) depends on parts of copper itself.

Copper can be found naturally in some foods. The average human diet provides approximately 1,400 mcg/day for men and 1,100 mcg/day for women that is primarily absorbed in the upper small intestine. Almost two-thirds of the body’s copper is located in the skeleton and muscle. Only a small amount typically stored in the body, which is one reason daily recommended consumption of copper is important.

Copper levels in the body are homeostatically maintained by copper absorption from the intestine and copper release by the liver into bile to provide protection from copper deficiency and toxicity.

Table 1: Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Copper [3]

Age

Male

Female

Pregnancy

Lactation

Birth to 6 months*

200 mcg

200 mcg

   

7–12 months*

200 mcg

200 mcg

   

1–3 years

340 mcg

340 mcg

   

4–8 years

440 mcg

440 mcg

   

9–13 years

700 mcg

700 mcg

   

14–18 years

890 mcg

890 mcg

1,000 mcg

1,000 mcg

19+ years

900 mcg

900 mcg

1,300 mcg

1,300 mcg

*Adequate Intake (AI)

Copper deficiency is not very common in people as we typically consume enough during our normal balanced diets. However, it does occur and present itself with findings of anemia, hypopigmentation (lighter skin coloration), hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol), connective tissue disorders, osteoporosis and other bone defects, abnormal lipid metabolism, balance issues with walking, and increased risk of infection.

There also are certain people groups who can be more likely to have inadequate copper status including people with celiac disease, menkes (rare, x-linked recessive disorder), and people taking high doses of zinc supplements (zinc can interfere with copper absorption).

Some believe copper can help with cardiovascular disease as copper can change one’s lipid profile making a person potentially more prone to cardiovascular disease.

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