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.
Importance and deficiencies of Copper
Copper is an essential trace mineral in human
nutrition. Deficiency states can be accompanied by Anemia,
decreased white blood cell count, and osteoporosis. Symptoms may
also include abnormal glucose tolerance, arthritis, myocardial
disease, arterial disease, and neurologic problems. Some people
who were deficient in copper have found relief from the above
symptoms after their intake was adjusted. The evidence appears
strongest in regards to cardiovascular disease and immunity.
Copper deficiency has also been shown to increase the
vulnerability to infections, and their severity. We also now
know that copper is required for normal infant development, red
and white blood cell maturation, iron transport, bone strength
and cholesterol metabolism. 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.
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 iron or 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
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
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
- Helps the body absorb iron.
- Aids the thyroid gland in
balancing and secreting hormones.
- Carries oxygen in the blood
- Supplies the body's tissues with
- Increases the body's energy
- Aids in nerve and brain
- Needed for the functioning of
the amino acid, tyrosine.
- Essential for making red blood
- Helps the body absorb iron.
- Helps tyrosine work as a pigment
- Helps supply oxygen to the
- Enzyme component
- Necessary for the synthesis of
the hormone adrenaline.
- Associated with intestinal
- Acts as a brain stimulant.
- Copper antagonizes manganese
- Copper level in the body
parallels estrogen levels.
- Copper is a natural yeast
- 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.
Symptoms of Low Copper
- Not enough oxygen in the cells
- Lowered levels of HDL
- Skin problems
- Swollen ankles
- Low copper causes the cells to
suffocate and lack oxygen
Psychological Symptoms of Low Copper
- Low copper levels linked to low
enkephalins produced in the the brain.
- 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
- Excess accumulates in
liver, kidneys and brain.
- Phytates hinder absorption
- High levels of zinc, iron,
calcium and manganese interfere with copper
MEDICAL CONDITIONS THAT CAUSE 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 require copper.
HIGH COPPER SYMPTOMS
CAUTION: Copper levels are more often too high than too low.
High copper can be toxic!
Symptoms of High Copper
- Increased heart rate
- Copper deposits in the brain and
liver causing damage.
- Damage to the kidneys
- Inhibit urine production
- Hair loss in women
- 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 protein
- Excessive copper in children is
associated with hyperactive behavior, learning
disorders such as dyslexia, ADD and infections such
Psychological Symptoms of High
- 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 pills
- Use of prescription medications
- Too much copper in drinking
- Zinc and manganese deficiency
raises copper levels.
- Copper lowers the histamine
- It takes 3 months to lower the
level in the body.
THE MEDICAL CONDITIONS THAT CAUSE
- 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, in coordination and psychosis.
The administration of total parenteral nutrition
(nutritional intravenous feeding).
- 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 under activity causes a deficiency
of available copper, and allows unbound copper to
build up in the tissues. Adrenal glandular substance
is also frequently helpful.
- 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
Temporary controls; coffee, caffeine in soda and
- Copper has been used to
Successfully treat: Auditory Hallucinations,
Depression, Histaperia and Schizophrenia.
COPPER FOOD SOURCES
- Whole grain cereals
- Oysters and Shellfish
- Organ meats and Poultry
- Cherries and Prunes
- Dark chocolate
- Fruits and Leafy green
- Nuts, Legumes and Soybeans
- Works with iron, zinc, manganese
- Needed in the utilization of
- Should be balanced with zinc in
a 1:10 ratio
- Copper and pantothenic acid are
related to hair color.
- Excess copper destroys Vitamin
- Necessary for the absorption of
- Found in copper plumbing,
vitamin and mineral pills, tea bags, cooking
- Zinc, manganese, vitamin C and
B-6, folic acid, sulfur and molybdenum are also
copper antagonists, chelators or binders.