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Copper is essential for all living things. Copper is present all over the world around us as a naturally occurring element. Life evolved in this natural presence and humans developed established mechanisms to manage intake levels.

Copper does not occur in the body and must be obtained daily from food and drinking water and sometimes using nutritional supplements as part of a balanced diet. Dietary copper is important to doctors and nutritionists. Our digestive systems absorb the necessary amount for good health through an intake system called homeostasis. Excess copper is thrown away.

The Role of Copper in Growth and Development

Almost every cell in the body uses copper, and along with iron and zinc, copper forms the three minerals essential to our well-being. Copper is vital for the health of the body from fetal development to old age. Simply put, our brains, nervous systems, and cardiovascular systems would not function normally without copper.

Copper is required for:

  • Brain development during fetal and postnatal growth and maintenance of brain health throughout life, including effective anti-oxidative defense
  • Efficient communication between nerve cells
  • Care of healthy skin and connective tissue
  • Wound healing
  • Structural integrity and function of the heart and blood vessels
  • The growth of new blood vessels
  • Proper structure and function of circulating blood cells
  • The formation of cells in our immune system (white blood cells)
  • Maintaining a healthy and effective immune response
  • Energy production and storage in mitochondria, which are the ‘power plants’ of our cells.

How Much Copper Do We Need?

Copper is an essential trace mineral that cannot be created by the human body, so it must be taken from dietary sources every day.

According to the World Health Organization, 1–3 milligrams of copper per day is needed to prevent any deficiency symptoms.

Various health and nutrition organizations around the world have set dietary reference values, emphasizing the importance of copper as part of a balanced diet.

What Are Copper-Rich Foods?

Some foods are particularly rich in copper. These include most nuts (especially rice and cashew nuts), seeds (especially poppy and sunflower), chickpeas, liver, and oysters. Natural foods such as cereals, meat and fish usually contain enough copper to provide up to 50% of the required copper intake in a balanced diet.

In addition, part of the daily intake in the UK can be obtained from drinking water conducted through copper pipes. However, in most regions, the copper content of the water is not sufficient to maintain the balance of the normal daily intake of this element. Additionally, it must be claimed that some water filters remove metals, including the essential element copper, from drinking water.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that global populations are at greater health risk from copper deficiencies in their diets rather than excess copper.

Copper Deficiency

According to the World Health Organization, even in developed regions such as the USA and Western Europe, there is a greater risk of copper deficiency than copper toxicity. Copper deficiency can lead to health problems such as anemia, heart and circulation problems, bone abnormalities and complications in the functioning of the nervous and immune systems, lungs, thyroid, pancreas, and kidneys. The elderly who do not get enough copper and lactating and pregnant women who need more virgins in their diet are particularly affected. This view is echoed by the EU Voluntary Risk Assessment, which concluded that some EU citizens, such as postmenopausal women, are at risk of copper deficiency.

Copper Surplus

Copper homeostasis balances copper intake and excretion to consistently meet the body’s needs. Acute copper poisoning is a rare event, largely limited to accidental drinking of copper nitrate or copper sulphate solutions that should be stored in an out of reach of the home. These and organic copper salts are potent emetic, and accidentally high doses are normally rejected by vomiting. Healthy human livers have a fairly large capacity to secrete copper, and chronic copper poisoning is very rare, with few reports referring to patients with liver disease.

Copper in Medicine

Copper has been used as a medicine for thousands of years, including treating chest wounds and purifying drinking water. More recent studies have shown that copper helps prevent inflammation in arthritis and similar diseases. Research continues on copper-containing anti-ulcer and anti-inflammatory drugs and its use in radiology and in the treatment of convulsions and epilepsy. Although there is no epidemiological evidence that copper can prevent arthritis, there have been claims that wearing a copper bracelet relieves symptoms.

Is Copper Necessary by Plants and Animals?

Exactly. Plants and animals need copper for normal growth and metabolism. Without proper copper supply in the soil, crop yields decrease, the quality of crop products deteriorates, increased susceptibility to disease and, in severe cases, crop shortages.

1 mg of Copper is Required Every Day to Maintain Health

According to the World Health Organization’s dietary guidelines, adults need 1.2 mg of copper in our daily diet. Fortunately, we can get it from many different foods. Dark chocolate, green leafy vegetables, legumes, lentils, nuts, offal (liver, kidney) and shellfish contain copper and provide key health benefits.

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