Humans have prized copper for its many uses since the Stone Age, probably as early as 8000 B.C. Ancient copper mines have been found on the island of Cyprus. In fact, the word copper comes from the Roman word cuprum, which means “Cyprean metal.”
In 1925, University of Wisconsin studies showed that copper, along with iron, is necessary for hemoglobin production. In 1931, copper supplementation helped cure anemia in infants. Colloidal Copper is now recognized as an essential trace element for humans and nearly every other organism.
Copper is most highly concentrated in the blood, liver, kidneys, and brain, but most other tissues and organs contain copper as well.
The role of copper in the blood parallels that of iron. Copper assists in the transportation of iron and the formation of hemoglobin, the part of the red blood cell that carries oxygen from the lungs to all cells in the body. A copper deficiency can lead to anemia, resulting in the blood's decreased capacity to carry oxygen throughout the body.
Copper contributes to the structural integrity of connective tissue throughout the body. Collagen a protein responsible for the integrity of bone, skin, cartilage, and tendons, requires copper. Copper is also important in the structure of elastin, a connective tissue that gives elasticity to the blood vessels, lungs, and skin, allowing them to move and stretch with changes in pressure or movement.
Proper formation of the myelin sheath-the fatty substance that surrounds and protects nerve cells-depends on the presence of copper. Multiple sclerosis is a progressive degeneration of the myelin sheath."Without copper, nerves would fry like toaster cords," said Sharon Faelten in The Complete Book of Minerals for Health.
Copper also builds proteins that give blood vessel walls the strength and flexibility to accommodate the forceful rivers coursing through our veins and arteries.
Copper is also an antioxidant- a co-factor in the powerful enzyme, super oxide dismutase (SOD) to combat free radicals.
Low intakes of copper may be associated with increased LDL “bad” cholesterol and decreased HDL “good” cholesterol. This may account for low copper levels being a potential contributing factor in heart and circulatory problems, which may lead to fullblown heart disease.
A lack of copper in the diet may lower the body's immune system. Normal intakes may help to reduce the risk of infection.
Blood levels of copper are thought to be directly associated with bone mass density; even a mild defieciency of copper may trigger, then worsen, osteoporotic lesions in bones. Boosting poor dietary intakes may help reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Short-term treatment with copper salicylates has been shown to reduce fever and swelling, and to increase joint mobility in those who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis.
"Without an adequate supply of copper, skin becomes fragile and will break easily and heal slowly, bones will fracture easily blood vessels can leak or even burst and cause an aneurysm," explained Dr. Lesser.
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Deficiency Signs and Symptoms
Copper deficiency, like iron deficiency, can lead to anemia.
Because of copper's role in the integrity of connective tissue, even a marginal copper deficiency may contribute to the formation of aneurysms, the ballooning out of the blood vessels. The aorta, the large artery that carries blood vessels that supply blood to the brain.
Copper deficiency can lead to impaired bone mineralization and may play a role in osteoporosis, a disease that affects more than 10 million Americans, most of whom are women. In fact, one study of healthy women between the ages of 45-56 gave some promising results. Of the study participants, those who took 3 mg copper each day had no change in mineral bone density, while those on a placebo had considerable bone density loss. Maintaining bone density is the number one way to stop osteoporosis.
Without an adequate supply of copper, skin becomes fragile and will break easily and heal slowly, bones will fracture easily blood vessels can leak or even burst and cause an aneurysm," explained Dr. Lesser.
Copper also may play an important role in cancer prevention, said Patrick Quillin, Ph.D., R.D., in Healing Nutrients. Cooper is bound within the blood in the form of ceruloplasmin, which is one of the more important antioxidants in the bloodstream, said Dr.Quillin. "Ceruloplasmin acts to keep hemoglobin iron from rusting. Hemoglobin oxidation could create free radicals (potentially harmful circulating chemicals) that could instigate abnormal growth, such as cancer. Both copper and zinc are involved in a crucial anti-cancer enzyme called superoxide dismutase (SOD). There are several different types of SOD enzymes containing different trace minerals. SOD and ceruloplasmin both act as 'fire extinguishers' throughout the body to squelch free radicals that could be the beginning of strange growths."
Because copper is essential to the formation of the myelin sheath that insulates nerves, a deficiency may also lead to damage to nerves and parts of the brain. In sheep, a deficiency of copper leads to a condition that resembles cerebral palsy.
Interactions and Factors Affecting Absorption
Prolonged zinc supplementation can sometimes cause copper deficiency. It is always a good idea to take the two of them together in a zinc-to-copper ratio of 8:1 to 10:1. In studies where healthy young men have been given high doses of zinc without copper supplementation for a considerable length of time, LDL cholesterol levels rose while HDL cholesterol fell- a pattern associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
Copper absorption is increased by protein intake and oxalates, which are found in some green leafy vegetables, particularly spinach.
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Copper is found in many foods. It is particularly rich in shellfish, especially oysters. Organ meats, legumes, sesame seeds, nuts, yeast, mushrooms, and dried fruit are also good sources.
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