INTRODUCTION: COPPER'S PLACE IN THE "CHAIN OF LIFE"
For good health and vitality, the human body needs several key nutrients that work together, like the links of a chain. If one of the links is broken, the chain is ineffective since the saying: "A chain is as strong as its weakest link." The nutrients that form the "chain of life" are carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, enzymes, lipids and sterols and minerals. All of the six must be present in adequate quantities for life to thrive.
Minerals, the group that copper belongs to, are critical to every chemical reaction that occurs in the body. Whether it's energy production, tissue manufacture, protein synthesis, water balance or cellular growth and reproduction, at least one mineral is required.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF COPPER
Copper is one of the few metallic elements that the human body needs for optimal metabolic performance. It's found through the body where it helps in the critical role of manufacturing red blood cells and keeping nerve cells and the immune system healthy. Perhaps the importance of copper in human life is heightened by the fact that it's present from the moment of conception, helping in the formation and development of an infant's heart, blood vessels and nervous system among others.
It goes further by supporting the absorption of iron and promoting the formation of collagen. Copper also has antioxidant properties that fight free radical activity that accelerates aging by damaging body cells. Suffice it to say that copper has immense benefits in the human body, some of which are just being discovered.
COPPER IN THE BODY
In the body copper is primarily stored in the muscles and bones. Scientific studies indicate there's approximately 1.4 to 2.1 milligrams of copper per kilogram of body weight. From the foregoing, you can see that your body needs copper in small quantities. Although copper deficiency is rare, it usually manifests in several ways, including low white blood cell count, osteoporosis, anemia, low body temperature, thyroid problems, irregular heartbeat and brittle bones. There's also scientific research that points to copper-deficiency as one of the factors that can expose you to the risk of coronary heart disease.
THE SIDE EFFECTS OF COPPER
As with most things, moderation in copper intake is important. Even with its critical role in ensuring good health, consuming too much of this mineral can cause you unpleasant side effects like stomach pain, diarrhea, headache, nausea, dizziness and vomiting. When it's ingested in toxic quantities, copper can be fatal. Thankfully, the body has its mechanism of rejecting high quantities of copper that may be consumed inadvertently at once.
The recommended daily allowance of copper for adults is 900 micrograms while expectant and lactating women usually require higher doses of 1000 and 1300 micrograms daily respectively. Consumption of high amounts of zinc can help remove excess copper from the body.
Because the human body can not synthesize copper, this mineral must be obtained exclusively from diet in trace amounts. You'll get dietary copper from a wide variety of foods, which include dark green leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach; seafood such as oysters, squid and lobster; dried legumes such as kidney beans and soy and nuts such as walnuts, hazelnuts and cashew-nuts.
Other food sources of copper include organ-meat such as liver, avocado, chocolate, dried peaches, figs and raisins. Drinking water supplied through copper pipes also delivers some small quantities of copper, even though most people do not anything about it. Such an abundance of dietary sources of copper might suggest that there's no need for supplementation. But a recent research has established an emerging trend that should get people to sit up and listen. According to a recent survey, only 25% of Americans are consuming a daily amount of copper that the US Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences considers to be adequate. Where has all the copper gone?
The United States Department of Agriculture established a long while ago that important minerals are gradually getting depleted from the soil, over time. This means that even though people may be consuming copper-rich food, they are getting fewer amounts of copper and other minerals with the passage of time. The suggestion that our diet is falling short of the required quantities is instructive. In the long run, supplementation may not be a far-fetched idea after all.