In terms of presence in our body, copper ranks far higher than many macro minerals. But the low daily dietary needs make it a micro/trace mineral. An adult human contains anywhere between 75 to 150 mg of copper inside. Among infants, its concentration is more, but the micro intakes reduce its concentration with age.
Usage by body:
Copper is present in all body tissues and plays an important role in our body systems. Kidney, liver, heart, brain, and hair are the regions with a relatively higher concentration of copper. It is important for the formation of connective tissues and the working of immunity and nervous system.
Copper helps in the conversion of iron into hemoglobin and stimulates the growth of red blood cells. It is required by certain digestive enzymes. Copper makes tyrosine (amino acid) usable, enabling it to work as the pigmenting factor for hair and skin. It helps in the utilization of vitamin C.
Copper is needed for normal functioning of muscle system. It manufactures collagen, a structural protein which helps in the maintenance of bone and tissue integrity. Copper keeps metabolism healthy and prevents premature aging or hormonal imbalance.
Deficiency of copper is mainly found in people suffering from malnutrition, having health problems like Crohn’s disease or have a high intake of iron and zinc. The presence of Menkes, a genetic disease, performance of gastric bypass surgery or high intake of Zinc also results in copper deficiency
Any deficiency of copper can result in health problems like general bodily weakness, disturbances in digestion and/or respiration. Being essential for iron absorption, copper deficiency can cause anemia and paleness.
Copper deficiency also increases the chances of problems like high cholesterol, fatigue, poor immunity system functioning, poor bone health (arthritis/osteoporosis) delayed wound healing, edema, slowing down of growth among kids, anorexia, weakness in connective tissues causing back pain and disc slips and muscle soreness.
The recommended daily intake value standards for copper are yet to be established. Based on expert advice and available knowledge on copper functions, following values are good for various population groups, as:
Copper is mainly found in foods which are rich in iron content also. The major food items in various categories for copper are:
- Green leafy vegetables: It includes mushrooms, beet greens, turnip greens spinach, asparagus, Swiss chard, kale, mustard green, green peas, beet, broccoli, cabbage, onion, and tomato.
- Cereals: It includes whole wheat, millet, barley, and oats.
- Nuts and seeds: It includes sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, dried beans, lentils, soybeans and its processed form tofu, walnuts, peanuts, flaxseeds and sprouted forms of various nuts and seeds.
- Fruits (including dry fruits): It includes cashews, summer squash, almonds, prunes, sweet potato, grapes, pineapple, winter squash, papaya, raisins, and pear.
- Non-vegetarian food items: It includes egg yolk and shrimp as main rich non-vegetarian food sources of copper.
Proper intake of copper helps in the natural treatment of back pain and arthritis naturally. It is good for keeping joints and muscle healthy. But the use of high copper doses for therapeutic purposes is done only under expert advice using naturally available copper foods as large amounts of copper are toxic. High copper doses can cause acute and temporary copper poisoning leading to problems of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and kidney damages.
Cautionary note: People with Wilson diseases or family history of Wilson disease should have expert advice before going for any high copper diet.