Copper is a metal element and an essential dietary trace mineral required for several important metabolic reactions in our bodies. Copper is a trace mineral, meaning that our bodies only need little amounts of it. However, it plays a key role in our overall health metabolism, especially with our bones, tissues, nervous system, digestive system and immune system.
It helps the body maintain steady energy levels and balance its hormones. Copper plays a critical function in DNA (the substance that makes up our genes) synthesis and promotes the metabolism of iron and the production of red blood cells. It contributes to the utilization of oxygen and iron needed in the body and makes protein more available by releasing iron in the liver. It is also the cofactor of enzymes forming the respiratory chain that releases energy from food. Additionally, it is used by enzymes that produce melanin, collagen as well as several hormones It participates in the production of pigment in skin, hair, eyes and in the maintenance of the myelin sheath that protects nerve fibers. Lastly, copper acts as an antioxidant, which means that it protects cells from oxidative damage.
Copper deficiency is rare but may cause many serious health issues such as anemia, neutropenia, weakness, fatigue, paleness, weight loss, skin inflammation, muscle pain, soreness, osteoporosis and a sensitive immune system. It must be noted that vitamin C, fructose, sugar, alcohol and the use of iron or zinc supplements can decrease copper absorption.
Moreover, low copper levels have been associated with learning and memory issues and with vision loss. Similarly, an excess of copper can be toxic if ingested in large amounts from contaminated water, food or air. Kidney damages, copper poisoning, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting are some of the side effects of a copper overdose.
Adequate amounts of copper are required for physical training and performance. Since it is involved in iron metabolism, in the formation of hemoglobin and in energy production, copper may delay exhaustion time, enhance endurance, and speed up recovery from sports injuries. Copper also plays important roles in the activation of the immune system, the regulation of blood pressure, the maintenance of the myelin sheath that protects nerve fibers, and the formation of healthy bones, teeth and heart.
There are numerous ways to increase our copper levels naturally. High concentrations of this mineral can be found in organ meats (e.g. liver, kidneys), meat and meat products, seafood (e.g. oysters, whelk), nuts (e.g. cashews), seeds (e.g. sesame, sunflower), cocoa, mushrooms, dried fruits (e.g. prunes, apricots, peaches, bananas, pears), whole-grains, potatoes, avocados, legumes (e.g. edamame, chickpeas), tofu and dark green vegetables.
In conclusion, our copper levels impact many aspects of our health. In order to make sure that your copper levels are balanced and steady, make sure to test your levels and to evaluate how you can make the right changes to rebalance your body and mind.