Copper is essential in all higher plants and animals. Copper is found in a variety of enzymes , including the copper centers of cytochrome c oxidase, the Cu-Zn containing enzyme superoxide dismutase, and is the central metal in the oxygen carrying pigment hemocyanin. The blood of the horseshoe crab, Limulus polyphemus uses copper rather than iron for oxygen transport.
Copper, found in the bones, muscles, brain, heart, liver and kidneys , is an important trace mineral for the cardiovascular, nervous and skeletal systems.
Food Sources of Copper
Good sources include Cocoa; Liver; Kidney; Oysters; Peas; Raisins. Molluscs and shellfish are rich sources of copper, as are betel leaves, arecanuts and other nuts.
Soft water contains more copper than hard water and water from the tap contains more copper than reservoir water. However, the latter is a better source of copper than water taken directly from the stream.
Benefits and Functions of Copper
Copper is an essential trace mineral and is found throughout the body in the skeleton, skin, muscles, liver and brain. It is mainly required in various enzymatic processes in the body and assists the absorption and utilisation of Iron. Copper is only required in very small amounts but deficiency can have a serious effect on several body systems. Copper is carried mostly in the bloodstream on a plasma protein called ceruloplasmin. Though when copper is first absorbed in the gut it is transported to the liver bound to albumin.
Adults need 1.2 mg a day. Having 1mg or less a day of copper supplements is unlikely to cause any harm.
What are the deficiency symptoms of Copper?
Insufficient copper has been associated with: changes in hair colour & texture, and hair loss; disturbances to the nervous system; bone diseases.
Serious deficiency is rare but can lead to: Menke's syndrome. An inherited condition called Wilson's disease causes the body to retain copper, as it is not excreted by the liver into the bil. This disease, if untreated, can lead to brain and liver damage.
Overdosage Signs of Copper
Toxic levels will lead to diarrhea, vomiting, liver damage as well as discoloration of the skin and hair, while mild excesses will result in fatigue, irritability, depression and loss of concentration and learning disabilities. Children getting too much copper may have hyperactive tendencies.