Copper is a mineral crucial for health maintenance. Copper is an essential nutrient, excesses or deficiencies of which cause impaired cellular functions and eventually cell death. The metabolic fates of copper and iron are intimately related. Systemic copper deficiency generates cellular iron deficiency, which in humans results in diminished work capacity, reduced intellectual capacity, diminished growth, alterations in bone mineralization, and diminished immune response. Copper is required for the function of over 30 proteins, including superoxide dismutase, ceruloplasmin, lysyl oxidase, cytochrome c oxidase, tyrosinase and dopamine-beta-hydroxylase. However, copper excess can also be harmful. It is suggested not to exceed 2 mg of copper intake a day.
Copper and Alzheimer's Disease
Copper is an essential metal in living organisms; thus, the maintenance of adequate levels is of vital importance and is highly regulated. Dysfunction of copper metabolism leading to its excess or deficiency results in severe ailments. Two examples of illnesses related to alterations in copper metabolism are Menkes and Wilson diseases. Several proteins are involved in the maintenance of copper homeostasis, including transporters and metal chaperones. In the last several years, the beta-amyloid-precursor protein (beta-APP) and the prion protein (PrP(C)), which are related to the neurodegenerative disorders Alzheimer and prion diseases respectively, have been associated with copper metabolism. Both proteins bind copper through copper-binding domains that also have been shown to reduce copper in vitro. In addition to a functional link between copper and beta-APP or PrP(C), evidence suggests that copper has a role in Alzheimer and prion diseases.
In one study, elderly people whose diets were rich in copper and heavy in saturated fats and trans fats risked faster mental decline that could be related to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. In the six-year study of more than 3,700 people aged 65 or older, about 600 of the subjects consumed at least 1.6 milligrams of copper a day, along with foods heavy in saturated and trans fat. Many of those people added the equivalent of 19 years to their ages in terms of mental decline. While copper, zinc and iron are essential for brain development, too much copper in the bloodstream may block the body’s ability to rid itself of proteins that form plaques found to clog the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. Archives of Neurology, August 2006.
Copper and postpartum depression
Women with a history of postpartum depression tend to have unusually high levels of copper in their blood. The body's regulation of copper levels may be involved. Blood copper levels are significantly higher among women with a history of postpartum depression compared with non-depressed women and those who'd suffered depression unrelated to childbirth. Some women may have a problem in the body's built-in system for clearing excess copper.
During pregnancy, a woman's copper levels normally go up, more than doubling, before normalizing after childbirth. In women who develop postpartum depression, copper levels do not normalize for some reason -- most likely because of a genetically determined flaw in the protein that regulates copper levels. Persistently high copper levels might contribute to postpartum depression because of the metal's role in brain chemistry. Excess copper in the brain, can alter the balance of dopamine and norepinephrine, two mood-regulating chemicals.
Copper in food
Copper is normally consumed in animal organs like liver, and in shellfish, nuts, legumes, some fruits, potatoes and chocolate. Drinking water that travels through copper pipes can also contain copper.
Copper RDA or Suggested Daily Intake
The U.S. daily recommended intake of copper is 0.9 milligrams.
During the past decade, there has been increasing interest in the concept that marginal deficits of copper element can contribute to the development and progression of a number of disease states including cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Deficits of copper nutrient during pregnancy can result in gross structural malformations in the conceptus, and persistent neurological and immunological abnormalities in the offspring. Excessive amounts of copper in the body can also pose a risk.
Acute copper toxicity can result in a number of pathologies, and in severe cases, death. Chronic copper toxicity can result in liver disease and severe neurological defects. The concept that elevated ceruloplasmin is a risk factor.
In China, dumplings are served by millions of families during the annual Dragon Boat Festival. The glutinous rice dumplings, or "zongzi", are wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves and shaped like pyramids, but some unscrupulous manufacturers are using copper-based chemicals to keep the leaves green. The leaves dyed by copper sulphate or copper chloride contain metal elements which will penetrate into the zongzi and cause harm. Some zongzi may contained 30 times more copper than the national standard.
Copper and Depression
Magnesium and copper are important modulators of NMDA-receptor activity. Recent data indicate that disturbances of glutamatergic transmission (especially via NMDA-receptor) are involved in pathogenesis of mood disorders. Magnesium deficiency, the same as disturbances in turn over of copper, are related to a variety of psychological symptoms especially depression. There are many reports indicating significant changes in blood levels of magnesium or copper during a depressive episode.
Wilson's Disease and Copper
Wilson's disease (WD) is an autosomal recessive inherited disorder leading to impaired intrahepatic trafficking and biliary excretion of copper, resulting in the accumulation of copper in various organs including the liver, cornea, and brain. Anticopper drugs that have been developed to treat Wilson's disease, a disease of copper toxicity, include tetrathiomolybdate, zinc, penicillamine, and trientine. Lowering copper levels by a modest amount in non-Wilson's patients with tetrathiomolybdate inhibits angiogenesis, fibrosis and inflammation while avoiding clinical copper deficiency.
The formation of new blood vessels is the initial step in progressive tumor development and metastasis. The first stage in tumor angiogenesis is the activation of endothelial cells. Copper ions stimulate proliferation and migration of endothelial cells. Serum copper concentration increases as the cancer disease progresses and correlates with tumor incidence and burden. Copper ions also activate several proangiogenic factors, e.g., vascular endothelial growth factor, basic fibroblast growth factor, tumor necrosis factor alpha and interleukin. Whether attempts to reduce copper levels in a tumor microenvironment will alter cancer progression has not been fully evaluated.
Reduced Longevity? Unhealthy to have too much?
Dr. Nathalie Leone of the Lille Pasteur Institute and colleagues found men with high copper levels had an increased risk of dying while high magnesium levels were associated with reduced mortality risk. Low zinc levels seem to add to the effect of the other two elements. However it remains unclear whether these metals are actually responsible for these effects or simply markers for cancer or heart disease. Zinc, copper and magnesium play a number of key roles in the body, for example in the immune response, inflammation and oxidative stress.
Researchers followed 4,035 men aged 30 to 60 for 18 years. During follow-up, 339 men died, including 176 from cancer and 56 from heart disease. Men with the highest copper levels at the study's outset had a 50 percent increased risk of death from any cause, and a 40 percent greater risk of dying from cancer, compared to men with the lowest levels. On the other hand, those with the highest magnesium levels had a 40 percent to 50 percent reduced risk of death compared to those with the lowest levels. Low zinc levels along with high copper levels boosted mortality risk further. Low zinc values combined with low magnesium levels contributed to an increased mortality risk. High copper levels were tied to older age, smoking and high cholesterol, while lower magnesium levels were linked to older age, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Copper can contribute to the formation of damaging free radicals in the body while low magnesium may also contribute to inflammation. Low zinc levels may impair immune function, while zinc also shields the body from free radicals. Epidemiology, May 2006.
Q. Is it okay to take a copper supplement with CoQ10 and Lipoic acid pills?
A. First make sure you really need to take supplemental dosages of this mineral. I don't see a problem taking them together.
I have been reading that copper is not good for the brain
and that no copper supplements should be taken by anyone. There is some research
that says that it contributes to deterioration in the brain.
There is debate about this topic. It is possible that some people are mildly deficient and could benefit from small amounts.