Function of Copper:
Copper plays an important role in the production of hemoglobin (the main
component of red blood cells), myelin (the substance that surrounds nerve fibers),
collagen (a key component of bones and connective tissue), and melanin (a dark
pigment that colors the hair and skin). Copper and vitamin C work together to help
make a component of connective tissue called elastin.
Maintaining the proper dietary balance of copper and other minerals including zinc and
manganese is important. When there is balance, copper will usually act as an
antioxidant by scavenging free radicals (damaging particles in the body). If there is
an imbalance, copper can act as a pro-oxidant by promoting free radical damage and
by contributing to the development of Alzheimer's disease and possibly, cervical
dysplasia (precancerous lesions of the cervix which forms the opening to the uterus).
Deficiency of Copper:
Individuals who are at high risk for copper deficiency include: premature infants,
infants with prolonged diarrhea, infants and children recovering from malnutrition,
individuals with malabsorption syndromes (including celiac disease, sprue, and short
bowel syndrome due to surgical removal of a large portion of the intestine),
individuals receiving intravenous total parenteral nutrition or other restricted diets,
and individuals who have cystic fibrosis.
Symptoms of copper deficiency include anemia, low body temperature, bone
fractures and osteoporosis, low white blood cell count (the cells that help fight
infection), irregular heartbeat, loss of pigment from the skin, and thyroid disorders.
Note: A variety of medical conditions can lead to the symptoms mentioned above. Therefore, it is
important to have a physician evaluate them so that appropriate medical care can be given.
Toxicity (Copper Overdose):
Causes of copper overload include the regular use of copper cookware and water
supplied by copper pipes. If water (especially hot water) sits in copper pipes for an
extended period of time, the copper can leach into the water supply. For this reason,
it is best to always cook with cold water. Running cold water for 2 to 3 minutes can
flush the pipe system and reduce the copper content. Copper lined cookware can
also leach into acidic foods such as vinegar, tomato, and citrus. If there are
blue-green stains around your faucet, sink or bathtub, or if you detect a metallic taste
in your water, you may want to have the water tested by a certified laboratory.
Symptoms of excessive copper intake include nausea, dizziness, headaches,
vomiting, stomach pain, weakness, diarrhea, and a metallic taste in the mouth. If left
untreated, copper toxicity can cause heart problems, jaundice, coma, and even death.
Caution: Eating natural foods that are high in copper is the safest and healthiest way
to get an adequate supply of the nutrient. Due to risk of toxicity, individuals should
always consult with a knowledgeable health care provider before starting doses of
supplements. Before giving supplements to children, it is recommended that you first
consult with their pediatrician. Also, some supplements may interfere with
medications. If you are taking medication, it is recommended that you consult with
your physician before taking any supplements. All supplements should be kept in
childproof bottles and out of children's reach.
Copper Food Chart (List of Foods High in Copper):
Liver (beef), cooked, 1 ounce - (4,049 mcg)
Oysters, cooked, 1 medium oyster - (670 mcg)
Cashews 1 ounce - (629 mcg)
Crab meat, cooked, 3 ounces - (624 mcg)
Clams, cooked, 3 ounces - (585 mcg)
Sunflower seeds 1 ounce - (519 mcg)
Lentils, cooked, 1 cup - (497 mcg)
Hazelnuts 1 ounce - (496 mcg)
Mushrooms, raw, sliced, 1 cup - (344 mcg)
Almonds 1 ounce - (332 mcg)
Chocolate, semisweet, 1 ounce - (198 mcg)
Peanut butter, chunky, 2 tablespoons - (185 mcg)
American Dietetic Association: Complete Food And Nutrition Guide (2nd Edition)
Roberta Larson Duyff, MS, RD, FADA, CFCS
Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs and More
Pamela Wartian Smith, MD, MPH
University of Maryland Medical Center - umm.edu
Linus Pauling Institute - oregonstate.edu
Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia
Eating foods that are high in
copper may help to prevent
conditions such as cardiovascular
disease, decreased immune
system function, and
osteoporosis. Foods that are
high in copper include: liver,
cashews, sunflower seeds,
hazelnuts, almonds, lentils,
mushrooms, and cocoa.
What is Copper?
Copper, an essential trace
element, is found in all tissues of
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