Copper has been known for over 150 years to exist in plants and animal tissues. More than fifty years ago it was shown to be essential for animals. Human copper deficiencies were reported forty years ago and, more recently, copper deficiency states have been discovered.
Copper deficiency produces anaemia, skeletal defects, degeneration of the nervous system, reproductive failure, elevated blood cholesterol, cardiovascular problems, impaired immunity, and defects in the pigmentation and the structure of hair.
Copper is one of those elements which can easily be taken in excess, although it is essential for normal metabolism. The average adult has approximately 60-110mg of copper in the body, one sixth being in the liver, one sixth in the brain, one third in the muscles, and the remaining third dispersed throughout the rest of the body. The liver controls copper storage and any excess is excreted via the bile, though if your copper intake increases, so does the amount retained.
There are a number of copper-containing enzymes that have been isolated, several of which are involved in brain metabolism.
Copper is also involved in the oxidation of vitamin C.
About thirty per cent of the copper we eat is absorbed, and a typical daily dietary intake is 2-5mg of copper. This means that the daily absorption of copper include excessive vitamin C or zinc, raw meat, calcium, molybdenum, mercury, lead and sulphide.
This very much depends on the copper content of the soil, and the copper content of the water in which the foods are prepared. Because of this, any tables of food-sources of copper include oysters, kidney, dried legumes, liver and nuts.
COPPER AND HEART DISEASE
There is evidence to show that copper is involved in the regulation of blood cholesterol – a copper deficiency leads to elevated blood cholesterol. There is also some evidence to suggest that an inadequate copper intake is associated with an increased rate of cardiovascular disease due to atherosclerosis.
There is an interaction between zinc and copper which is not yet fully understood, but relates to cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, and serum cholesterol. A US researcher found that an increase in the zinc to copper ratio raised the blood cholesterol levels in rats. He compared coronary heart disease with death rates in forty-seven US cities, and related it to milk intake (because the zinc to copper ration in milk differs from one area to the next in the US).He discovered a correlation between high zinc to copper ratios and higher death rates from heart disease. He also noted that the copper content of foods today is lower than it was 35 years ago, and that in the US many people are eating less than the recommended daily allowance of 2mg.
COPPER AND ARTHRITIS
Many people swear that wearing a copper bracelet reduces their arthritic pain. There is very little objective scientific evidence that this is so, though one only has to talk with people who find their copper bracelet useful to realize that there may well be some value in it. One Australian study found that thirty-one out of forty arthritic patients felt better when wearing their copper bracelets. The researcher, Dr Ray Walker, found that the copper bracelets lost an average of 13mg in weight per month. This was presumably due to loss of copper from the bracelet into sweat and then absorbed by the skin. Obviously, a little could also be lost into clothing, bath water and so on.
The way in which such bracelets work is not understood, though it may very well be related to the activity of the enzyme superoxide dismutase, which has a copper-containing form. Copper deficiency would limit the production of the enzyme and this would result in a failure to ‘mop-up’ those substances in the body that can cause inflammation and pain. Furthermore, John Sorenson, professor of Pharmacy at the University of Arkansas, has noted that copper salicylate (assort of aspirin containing copper) can be useful in arthritis and in the treatment of ulcers.
It is possible that anti-inflammatory compounds, such as aspirin and phenylbutazone, combine with copper in the tissue of the stomach, the copper then being transported to the site of inflammation. Aspirin is extremely potent in its ability to combine with copper.
COPPER AND MENTAL FUNCTION
In view of the fact that copper is involved in the production of a number of brain chemicals, disruptions of copper metabolism can understandably produce mental symptoms.
Dr Carl Pfeiffer of the of the Brain Biocenter in Princeton, New Jersey, has long claimed that excessive copper, especially when combined with deficiencies of zinc or manganese, can be involved in the development of Schizophernia.
It has been our experience that a number of people with schizophrenia and/or severe mental disturbances of one sort or another very often have high serum or hair-copper levels. Reducing these levels with the use of vitamin C, zinc, manganese and B vitamins, results in an improvement in these conditions.
COPPER ANS CONTRACEPTIVE PILL
The pill raises copper levels and can reduce the body zinc status. Also, during pregnancy, elevations of copper and decreases of zinc can occur as a result of normal hormonal actions.
Postnatal depression and psychosis, as well as depression while using the Pill, could possibly be linked to the severely reduced zinc to copper ratios can occur.
COPPER AND DRINKING WATER
The copper content of drinking water depends on the type of piping it flows through (very often copper) and the hardness of water itself. Hard water tends to coat the inside of the pipes and provide a protective barrier between the water and the copper pipes. The copper content in hot water is generally higher than in the cold mains-water because of the increased solubility of copper at higher temperatures. It is possible to buy a domestic filter through which all drinking-water is passed. This is worth doing because too much copper reduces the availiblity of zince to the body and most of us are already rather short of zinc. You should never fill up the kettle, or drink water from the hot-water tap, as it can be very high in copper.
COPPER DEFICIENCY AND ZINC
Excessive zinc supplementation can cause copper deficiency, though on this kind of level of supplementation it is important to monitor both zinc and copper status.