Copper (Cu) is a trace element that is essential for most animals,
including humans. The influence of copper upon human health is due to the
fact it is part of enzymes, which are proteins that help biochemical
reactions occur in every cell.
Copper is involved in the absorption, storage and metabolism of iron.
The symptoms of a copper deficiency are similar to iron deficiency anemia.
Copper may be absorbed by both the stomach and small intestinal mucosa,
with most absorbed by the small intestine. Copper is found in the blood
bound to proteins.
Copper is utilized by most cells as a component of enzymes involved in
energy production (cytochrome oxidase) and in the protection of cells from
free radical damage (superoxide dismutase). Copper is also involved with
an enzyme that strengthens connective tissue (lysyl oxidase) and in brain
neurotransmitters (dopamine hydroxylase and peptidyl alpha amidating
monoxygenase). One of the proteins, ceruloplasmin, transports copper as
well as helps convert iron to a form that can be transported to other
tissues. The average level of copper stored in the body is from 50 to 120
mg, with most of this in the liver. Excess dietary copper can also lead to
high copper levels in the kidney. However, under normal situations, not
much copper is excreted via the urine. Most copper is excreted via bile
that is released into the gastrointestinal tract, with minimal copper
reabsorbed by intestinal cells. The uptake of copper and elimination
through the bile allows copper to be conserved and tightly regulated.
Deficiencies: Animals that are fed diets deficient in
copper often exhibit anemia, cardiac abnormalities such as blood vessel
and heart rupture, abnormal EKG's and have elevated levels of serum
cholesterol, triglycerides and glucose. A lifetime of marginal diet copper
in humans is thought to lead to heart disease. Copper deficiency has been
observed in premature infants and infants suffering from malnutrition.
Overt symptoms in adults are rare, but may occur with long term shortage
or, possibly, in those who consume zinc supplements for a period of time.
Diet recommendations: The estimated safe and adequate
intake for copper is 1.5 - 3.0 mg/day. Many survey studies show that
Americans consume about 1.0 mg or less of copper per day. Copper is found
in foods such as nuts [0.2 to 0.5 mg/28 g (1 Tbsp.)], shellfish (1.0 to
3.7 mg/serving), organ meats (3.8 mg/serving of beef liver) and legumes
(0.2 mg/serving). Grains, grain products and chocolate have appreciable
levels of copper. While these food items are good to excellent sources of
copper, the absolute amount of copper absorbed may be influenced by other
Copper absorption may be decreased by excess dietary
zinc. Conversely, too much copper may cause an iron deficiency.
Vitamin C supplementation results in decreased copper status. In rats,
large doses of vitamin C can lead to copper deficiency. Other dietary
components have an influence upon copper status, but not necessarily
absorption. Feeding rats either sucrose or fructose, as opposed to glucose
or cornstarch, decreases copper status and exacerbates the signs of copper
Toxicity: Cases of copper toxicity are rare but may
occur. Excess copper consumption may lead to liver damage. Intake of
supplements exceeding 3 mg copper/day for a protracted period of time may
be cause for concern. Doses of 10 mg/day over several weeks may lead to
toxic symptoms, such as weakness and nausea.
Genetic Conditions relating to copper: There are two
well known genetic diseases affecting
copper metabolism. Menkes' kinky-hair disease is a problem with copper
transport or absorption. Wilson's disease is characterized by increased
liver copper content, leading to severe hepatic damage, followed by
increased brain copper levels and neurological problems. Menkes' disease
results in pathology resembling copper-deficiency, as opposed to the
pathology of Wilson's disease, which resembles copper-toxicity. The Menkes'
gene codes for a P-type ATPase that has a mutation that prevents copper
absorption in the intestine.
- Helps oxidize glucose and release energy.
- Helps the body absorb iron.
- Aids the thyroid gland in balancing and secreting hormones.
- Carries oxygen in the blood stream.
- Supplies the body's tissues with oxygen
- Increases the body's energy levels.
- Aids in nerve and brain function
- Needed for the functioning of the amino acid, tyrosine.
- Essential for making red blood cells.
- Helps the body absorb
- Helps tyrosine work as a pigment factor
- Helps supply oxygen to the brain.
- Enzyme component
- Necessary for the synthesis of the hormone adrenaline.
- Associated with intestinal enzyme activity.
- Acts as a brain stimulant
- Copper antagonizes manganese ions.
- Copper level in the body parallels estrogen levels.
Copper is a natural yeast fighter
- Copper improves epinephrine, norepinephrine and dopamine.
- helps oxidize
Vitamin C and works with Vitamin C to form Elastin, a chief
component of the Elastin muscle fibers throughout the body; aids in the
formation of red blood cells
Physical Symptoms of Low Copper:
- Not enough oxygen in the cells
- Lowered levels of HDL cholesterol
- Skin problems
- Swollen ankles
- Low copper causes the cells to suffocate and lack oxygen
- Low copper levels linked to low enkephalins produced in the brain.
Psychological Symptoms of Low Copper:
- Auditory hallucinations
- Binge eaters have been found to have lower levels.
Causes of Low Copper:
- Refining white flour
- Alkaline medium inhibits copper.
- Copper deficiency occurs as a result of the administration of total
parenteral nutrition ( Nutritional intravenous feeding).
- Excess accumulates in liver, kidneys and brain.
- Phytates hinder absorption
- High levels of zinc, iron, calcium and manganese interfere with
THE MEDICAL CONDITIONS THAT CAUSES LOW
Conditions are rare, but common in infants who are premature.
Menkes' syndrome is a hereditary disorder causing copper
deficiency. Symptoms: kinky hair, mental retardation, and
low copper level in the blood and a failure to synthesize the enzymes that
Copper levels are more often too high than too low. High copper can be
Physical Symptoms of High Copper:
- Increased heart rate
- Copper deposits in the brain and liver causing damage.
- Damage to the kidneys
- Inhibit urine production
- Causes anemia
- Causes hair loss in women
- High copper interferes with zinc, which is needed to manufacture
digestive enzymes. Many high copper people dislike protein and are drawn
to high-carbohydrate diets because they have difficulty digesting
- Excessive copper in children is associated with hyperactive
behavior, learning disorders such as dyslexia, ADD and infections such
Psychological Symptoms of High Copper:
- Autism type symptoms
- Personality changes
- Schizophrenic type symptoms
- Disperception of the senses, time, body, self and others.
- Produces hypomanic states
- Detachment from reality
Causes of High Copper:
- Excess estrogen in the meat supply ( estrogen used as a growth
hormone in the meat industry was discontinued in the 80's and replaced
with testosterone, etc.)
- Birth control pill
- Use of prescription medications containing copper.
- Too much copper in drinking water
- Zinc and manganese deficiency raises copper levels.
- Copper lowers the histamine levels.
- It takes 3 months to lower the level in the body.
THE MEDICAL CONDITIONS THAT CAUSE HIGH COPPER:
Wilson's Disease is a condition that causes copper to
accumulate in the tissues and cause extensive damage. Affects 1 in 30,000
people. The liver does not secrete copper into the blood or excrete copper
into the bile. Low blood levels, high in the brain, eyes and liver causes
cirrhosis. First symptoms: brain damage, tremors, headaches, inability to
speak, incoordination and psychosis.
- The administration of total parenteral nutrition (nutritional
- An important way to reduce high copper levels is to enhance the
activity of the adrenal glands. The adrenals cause the liver to secrete
ceruloplasmin, which binds and removes copper. Adrenal underactivity
causes a deficiency of available copper, and allows unbound copper to
build up in the tissues. Adrenal glandular substance is also frequently
- Exercise temporarily stimulates the adrenals, which helps eliminate
copper. One needs to keep exercising or the copper toxicity symptoms,
fatigue, mood swings and depression will return.
Temporary controls; coffee, caffeine in soda and some drugs
Copper Food Sources:
- Whole grain cereals
- Organ meats
- Dark chocolate
- Leafy green vegetables
- Organ meats,
- Works with
- Needed in the utilization of
- Should be balanced with
zinc in a 1:10 ratio
pantothenic acid are related to hair color.
- Excess copper destroys
- Necessary for the absorption of
- Found in
mineral pills, tea bags, cooking utensils
vitamin C and
molybdenum are also copper antagonists, chelators or binders.
Copper has been used to Successfully treat:
- Auditory Hallucinations
- Histaperia Schizophrenia