The Benefits of Copper

COPPER AND THE IMMUNE SYSTEM

The importance and benefits of copper as an essential trace element includes supporting a strong immune system, the formation of blood, as an antibacterial and cellular communication. 

A copper deficiency will have a significant impact on your overall health, especially on your immune system.

Your immune system is always active.

Support  your immune system by maintaining a balanced life style, whole foods, exercise, good sleep, mineralised water, and essential minerals and trace elements, many of which can be derived from sea salt

Sources of Copper

Immune system

A wide variety of plant and animal foods contain copper such as meat (liver), seafood, cashew nuts, chickpeas, salmon, tofu, dark chocolate and avocado (NIH, 2020). The average diet provides approximately 1.400 and 1.100 mcg/day of copper for men and women, respectively (NIH, 2020).

Found in almost all forms of life, copper is an essential micronutrient, aka trace element, required for many biological processes in your body, and because of this, it’s important to have a dietary source of copper in either your food or water.

Copper is an Essential Co-factor in the Formation of Blood

Copper is found primarily in the blood and in organs with high metabolic activity, such as liver, brain, heart, kidneys, and skeletal muscles (Barceloux & Barceloux, 1999).

Copper is an essential co-factor in the absorption of iron in the intestines needed to make hemoglobin a protein in your red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout your body and transports carbon dioxide to your lungs.

A copper deficiency is often linked to an iron-deficiency which can be a cause deep tiredness known as anemia. 

Benefits of Copper for the Immune System

Copper aids in the formation of white blood cells which increase when there is an immune challenge e.g. infection,

White blood cells are the frontline of your immune system, that fight infection and defend against disease; they engulf and digests foreign bodies, scavenge for cell debris including damaged and old red blood cells and free radicals.

The ability of copper to easily accept and donate electrons is why it plays an important role in oxidationreduction (redox) reactions and in scavenging free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can cause damage to cells, DNA, lead to illness and causes premature aging.

Examples of free radicals are found in tobacco smoke, radiation, drugs and pesticides.

Copper is a redox active metal and  co-factor for enzymes known as cuproenzymes. These enzymes are involved in oxidizing metals and other organic substrates as well as in the production of collagen proteins that give skin tissue elasticity and shape thus slow aging (Besold et al., 2016). 

Copper is required to balance zinc and plays a role in the function of the prostate gland and regulates oil glands and therefore may help to prevent acne.

A copper deficiency reduces the effectiveness of the immune response (Percival, 1998) and will lead to an increased susceptibility to infections referred to as neutropenia, a condition where there are too few white blood cells produced by the body to fight an immune system challenge. This occurred in one study in which the intake of copper was reduced to 40% of the RDA.

Full function of the immune system can be assisted with making dietary changes and supplementation with copper and its co-factors (Djoko et al., 2015).

Copper is Antibacterial!

The benefits of copper were recognised way back when copper filings were applied to battle wounds to prevent infection.

Interestingly, the body’s copper reserves concentrate at infection sites.

These days hospitals are copper plating touch surfaces such as bed rails, door handles, trolleys, bench tops etc using copper as a passive disinfectant to reduce the incidence of hospital acquired infections.

Cellular Communication

Copper being an electrical conductor is required for brain development and function, maintenance of nerve cells, the transmission of electrical impulses, development of neural pathways, synapses and circuits, production of enzymes that activate the brain’s neurotransmitters in response to stimuli, and for the brain to switch off and sleep.

Signs of Copper Deficiency

Some symptoms related to copper deficiency include:

  • anaemia
  • tiredness
  • morbidity
  • increased risks of infection and recurring infection
  • osteoporosis
  • joint and muscle pain/inflammation

Maintaining a Copper Balance is Important!

Conversely, you can have too much of a good thing. In a study conducted on nine healthy young men, long-term high intake of copper at 7.8 mg/day for approximately 5 months. The amount of copper ingested daily was 8.6 times the RDA. The result concluded excess copper blunted antibody production in response to an immune challenge with an influenza vaccine.

The tolerable upper limit of copper is 10000 mcg (10 mg) and is the amount of copper intake that some people begin to show symptoms of copper toxicity. 

How Much Copper Do You Need?

Total copper content present in the body of an average adult is between 50-120 mg. Almost two-thirds of the body’s copper is found in the skeleton and muscles (NIH, 2020).

Excess copper is excreted in bile, and a small amount is excreted in urine (NIH, 2020).

According to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for an adult is 900 mcg (.9mg) per day.

A copper imbalance can result in severe and irreversible cellular damage (Li et al., 2019). However, instances of copper toxicity or critical copper deficiencies are rare. Abnormalities of copper metabolism can be caused by genetic disorders (Besold et al., 2016) such as a high level of copper = known as Wilson’s disease, or a copper deficiency identified in Menkes disease.

A wide variety of plant and animal foods contain copper such as meat (liver), seafood, cashew nuts, chickpeas, salmon, tofu, dark chocolate and avocado (NIH, 2020). The average diet provides approximately 1.400 and 1.100 mcg/day of copper for men and women, respectively (NIH, 2020).

Balancing Copper In The Body

Your body is always balancing the optimal amount of copper you need and directly copper to where it is needed. 

Excess copper is removed in urine or faeces.

The complex biology of your body is always responding to internal and external impressions to achieve a state of balance and harmony aka health and well being.

While we are oblivious to the billions of biological exchanges going on in our body every second, be inspired to listen and respond to your body’s calls for nutrition.

Giving your body optimum amounts of nutrition (not the minimum) and by avoiding toxic influences, you have everything you need to maintain a strong immune system and live a long and vital life.

References:

  1. Barceloux D. G. and Barceloux D. 1999. Copper. J Clin Toxicol 37: 217-230. DOI: 10.1081/CLT-100102421Besold A.N., Culbertson E.M, Culotta V.C. 2016. J Biol Inorg Chem 21: 137-144. DOI:
  2. 10.1007/s00775-016-1335-1
  3. Calder P.C. 2020. Nutrition, immunity and COVID-19. BMJ Nutr Prev Health 3: e000085. DOI: 10.1136/bmjnph-2020-000085
  4. Copper: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. 2020. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health (NIH), Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov
  5. Djoko K.Y., Ong C.-I.Y., Walker M.J., McEwan A.G. 2015. Toxicity in innate immune defense against bacterial pathogens. J Biol Chem 290: 18954-18961. DOI: 10.1074/jbc.R115.647099
  6. Li C., Li Y., Ding C. 2019. The role of copper homeostasis at the host-pathogen axis: From Bacteria to Fungi. Int J Mol Sci 20: 175. DOI: 10.3390/ijms20010175
  7. Percival S. 1998. Copper and immunity. Am J Clin Nutr 67: 1064-1068. DOI: 10.1093/ajcn/67.5.1064S

Author

Maryia Khomich, PhD

Maryia holds a joint Master degree in Marine Microbiology from six European universities and a PhD degree in Microbiology from the University of Oslo (Norway). She currently works as a Postdoctoral fellow at Nofima – Norwegian Institute of Food, Fisheries and Aquaculture Research. Her project is at the interface of microbiology and biostatistics with a focus on gut microbiota from dietary intervention trials. She has previously worked as an independent consultant for a large microbiological journal.

Copper is Antibacterial

Copper Is Antibacterial

Antibacterial Copper Practitioners of the millennia-old Ayurvedic medicine of ancient India utilized and documented copper and its alloys for various topical and internal disease treatments, and as a material for pharmaceutical containers and medical instruments.1 Now researchers are looking deeper into copper’s antibacterial properties and its potential to fight infections and diseases. Copper kills bacteria

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