Copper is not only a metallic element that is found in large deposits in mountainous soil mines on earth, but is also an essential trace mineral for carrying out numerous operations in the human body. It plays a crucial part in fundamental biochemical pathways of glucose and cholesterol metabolism. Moreover, copper facilitates several processes of energy generation, collagen protein production, bone formation and coordinates with iron, to ensure healthy red blood cell synthesis.
Since it cannot be produced intrinsically by the bodily tissues in the system, copper must be provided externally through diet and in very specific situations of chronic ailments, from supplements. Umpteen plant and animal foods are very rich in copper and once ingested, the metal is present in the form of copper ions bound to amino acid chains, as active enzymes. The amount of copper stored in the body is rather small, between 50 to 120 milligrams, with the majority being concentrated in the brain, kidneys, skeletal muscles, heart and liver. An elaborate mechanism to maintain optimal copper levels in bloodstream exists, wherein the trace mineral is absorbed by intestines and released from the liver, following which surplus amounts are excreted via the bile fluids. In this manner, the deleterious effects owing to copper deficiency and toxicity are averted, in otherwise healthy individuals.
Being very important for key roles in energy metabolism, brain aptitude, neurotransmitter tasks, antioxidant and defence mechanisms, insufficient copper consumption in the diet invariably leads to several deficiency disorders. Also, copper above the safe upper limit must not be consumed, to avert harmful consequences and promote overall wellbeing.
Copper contributes to many central processes in the human body, thereby augmenting both physical fitness and mental wellness. Some of the vital functions of copper include:
Adjoining with proteins to form metalloenzymes known as cuproenzymes, to facilitate energy production, neuron activation and synthesis of bones, connective tissues
Incorporating with bioactive constituents in the bloodstream to result in ceruloplasmin (CP), a carrier and transport protein, which is crucial for iron metabolism, distribution and absorption in bodily cells, tissues
Integrating as a key component of superoxide dismutase enzymes, which portray powerful antioxidant traits, for safeguarding cells from oxidative damage by toxins, harmful free radicals
Carrying out the vital role of maintaining the body’s structural proteins – collagen and elastin, which enrich skin texture and elevate heart wellness
Regulating blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels, by ensuring proper glucose, lipid metabolism and decreasing the chances of acquiring chronic conditions of hypertension, diabetes
Preserving smooth relay of signals between nerves, to ensure optimal brain functions and responses across all organs in the body
Controlling fundamental biological processes of new blood vessel formation or angiogenesis, gene expression in cells, tissues, neurological development, neurohormone production and pigment compounds i.e. melanin secretion
Contributing to adequate white blood cells within the system, to support immunity, keep seasonal illnesses and infectious diseases due to bacteria, viruses at bay
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of copper is set at approximately 900 micrograms per day for healthy adults and adolescents with otherwise normal growth patterns. Pregnant and lactating women require higher concentrations of copper, with at least 1300 micrograms from dietary sources per day.
Copper is found in a multitude of foods, derived from both plants and animals. Some dietary sources rich in the trace mineral are:
Seafood including oysters, different kinds of shellfish
Whole grains like wheat, bran, oats
Fruits consisting of dried plums i.e prunes, figs
Vegetables such as dark leafy greens – kale, spinach, tomatoes, potatoes
Meat products like kidneys, liver
Nuts and seeds encompassing sunflower seed kernels, almonds, cashews
Cocoa in chocolate, millets, legumes
Copper deficiency, referred to as hypocupremia in medical terms, is quite rare in most healthy individuals. Yet, those suffering from genetic irregularities, central nervous system (CNS) abnormalities and ingesting excessive concentrations of zinc, vitamin C are more prone to health anomalies arising from lack of adequate copper in the body.
The latter is because the essential nutrients zinc, vitamin C compete with copper for absorption by the intestinal cells, tissues, thereby lowering the assimilation of requisite amounts of copper. Specific metabolic disorders such as Menkes disease also hamper copper assimilation in the brain.
The symptoms of copper deficiency include fatigue, anaemia, discolouration in the skin, thyroid complications and weakness in bones.
The safe upper limit of copper consumption on a daily basis is 10,000 micrograms or 10 milligrams, for fit adults over the age of 19 years.
When copper quantities exceed this amount, minor symptoms of nausea, vomiting, with a bitter metallic taste lingering in the mouth occur. Other indications comprise headaches, dizziness and body pain, exhaustion.
Severe cases of copper toxicity happen only in seldom circumstances, eventually triggering liver problems like cirrhosis, jaundice, as well as red blood cell aberrations and cardiac ailments.It is hence important to seek advice from a medical professional before taking copper supplements or diets overloaded with the mineral and make sure to consume only the required dosage, thus avoiding the injurious effects to health and guaranteeing complete wellness.