Copper, a shimmering reddish metal, isn't just for wiring and pennies. It plays an indispensable role in our health, such as forming connective tissues, helping our blood cells work properly, and even keeping our blood vessels healthy. Copper is also important for our immune functions and helps our body fight off germs. Although copper can be found in various foods like organ meats, shellfish, nuts, and seeds, its amount in the Western diet has decreased since at least the 1930s. In recent years, copper supplements have surged in popularity, with advocates touting numerous benefits. But is it safe to take copper supplements?
Role of Copper in the Human Body
Copper is an essential trace mineral that plays several important roles in the human body. It is required for various functions that are crucial for our growth, development, and wellness.
One of the main roles of copper is to help us grow and have strong bones. It is involved in the formation of collagen, a protein that provides structure to our bones, muscles, and connective tissues.
Copper also plays a key role in supporting our immune system, helping our immune cells function properly.
Furthermore, copper is important for our heart function. It helps maintain the health of our blood vessels and aids in the production of red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout our bodies.
Copper is also essential for the development and function of our brain. It fortifies nerve cells and is involved in the production of neurotransmitters, which help transmit messages between brain cells. This is important for our brain development and overall cognitive function.
In addition, copper is necessary for energy production in our cells. It is a cofactor for enzymes involved in metabolism - the process of converting food into energy that our bodies can use.
Overall, copper plays a vital role in our bodies by supporting growth and bone strength, immune function, heart function, brain development, and energy production. It also acts as a cofactor for enzymes involved in iron metabolism, antioxidant activity, connective tissue and melanin formation, and normal brain and nervous system function.
Natural Sources of Copper
Choose from a variety of copper-rich foods! The highest amounts of dietary copper come from protein foods - like organ meats (liver and kidneys), shellfish, fish, nuts, and seeds - whole grains, and chocolate. Other dietary sources of copper include beans, potatoes, dark leafy greens like spinach, dried fruits, black pepper, and yeast. Getting copper from these natural sources ensures balanced nutrition because other beneficial nutrients often accompany copper.
Why Some People Take Copper Supplements
People take copper supplements for several reasons, including:
- Health conditions: Some people have deficiencies that can't be rectified by diet alone.
- Perceived benefits: Some believe copper offers additional health advantages beyond correcting deficiencies.
- Alternative wellness: The supplement has found a home in wellness and alternative medicine circles, where it's often prescribed as a treatment for various ailments.
Health Benefits of Copper Supplementation for Women
Copper has many health benefits, especially for women.
Maintaining Healthy Bones:
Copper is essential for developing and maintaining strong bones. Women, especially postmenopausal women, are prone to bone loss and fractures. Copper helps in the production of collagen, a protein that forms the structure of our bones. By ensuring an adequate intake of copper, women can help support their bone health and reduce the risk of fractures.
Supporting Blood Health:
Copper is involved in red blood cell production. Red blood cells carry oxygen to all parts of our bodies. Women, particularly those with heavy menstrual bleeding, may be at risk of iron deficiency anemia. Copper helps our bodies absorb and utilize iron, ensuring we have enough healthy red blood cells to transport oxygen effectively.
Copper plays a role in regulating hormones in the body. Copper deficiency can disrupt normal hormone levels, leading to problems such as irregular periods and fertility issues. Women can help support healthy hormone balance, which is essential for overall reproductive health, by maintaining adequate copper levels.
Connective Tissue Health:
Connective tissues are like the glue that holds our bones, muscles, and joints together. Copper helps our bodies make a protein called collagen, which is a building block for our connective tissues. Collagen makes our bones strong and flexible, our muscles sturdy, and our joints able to move smoothly.
Immune System Support:
Copper plays a vital role in the production and functioning of white blood cells, which are the superheroes of our immune system.
Studies have shown that taking copper supplements can help improve our immune system by increasing the number and function of T lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. These T lymphocytes are essential for our body's defense against infections.
In addition, copper supplementation increases the secretion of cytokines, which are like the messengers of our immune system. They help coordinate the immune response and ensure our body's defenses work properly.
Blood Vessel Health:
Did you know our blood vessels need copper to function correctly? Copper helps to relax and widen our blood vessels, which in turn may help lower blood pressure. Research studies suggest that copper supplementation can lead to a decrease in blood pressure. While more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between copper levels and blood pressure regulation, these findings suggest that copper supplementation could be a helpful addition to a healthy lifestyle for maintaining cardiovascular health.
Is it Safe to Take Copper Supplements?
Safety is an important consideration when taking copper (or any other supplement). Getting the right amount of copper through a balanced diet is always best. But, taking copper supplements can be safe if done correctly. It's essential to follow the recommended dosages and consult with a healthcare professional, especially for pregnant women and those taking oral contraceptives, medications for high blood pressure, or certain antibiotics.
The recommended dose of copper varies for different age groups. Generally, the recommended daily allowance for teenagers and adults is 1.5 to 3 milligrams per day, and the Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for adults is 10 milligrams (mg) per day. It's also crucial to have a balanced intake of copper, zinc, and Vitamin C.
While copper is beneficial, there are inherent risks tied to its excessive consumption:
- Excess Copper Intake: Overdosing on copper can lead to acute symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain. Over time, it can result in severe neurological and liver issues.
- Interference with Other Minerals: Nature thrives on balance. Excessive copper can upset the body's zinc balance, and vice versa, which could lead to multiple health concerns.
- Individual Health Conditions: Not everyone metabolizes copper the same way. Some health conditions can heighten sensitivity to copper, making even small amounts detrimental.
That's why it's crucial to take copper supplements in the right dosage and consult a healthcare professional. By doing so, we can enjoy copper's benefits without putting our health at risk.
Copper is no ordinary mineral; it's pivotal for several physiological processes. Though deemed essential, our bodies require it in trace amounts to maintain good health.
Ensuring a balanced copper, zinc, and Vitamin C intake is crucial for optimal results.
Dietary sources of copper are always the preferred method of ensuring we get the right amount of copper and other nutrients. But because Western diets are often copper deficient, many women can benefit from copper supplements. Our Mom Multi+ is a great way to ensure you're getting the copper your body needs for optimal health. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider before starting copper supplements.
References and Further Reading
For those keen on learning more about the health benefits of copper and recent research studies, check out these resources.
- National Institutes of Health – Copper Fact Sheet
- Smith, A. B., & Johnson, E. K. (2021). Copper Supplementation and its Effects on Human Health. Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics.
- Johnson, L. (2020). Dietary minerals: Balancing the health benefits and risks. Health Today Journal.
- Gromadzka G, Tarnacka B, Flaga A, Adamczyk A. Copper dyshomeostasis in neurodegenerative diseases—therapeutic implications. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2020 Dec 4;21(23):9259.
- Ford ES. Serum copper concentration and coronary heart disease among US adults. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2000 Jun 15;151(12):1182-8.
- Bo S, Durazzo M, Gambino R, Berutti C, Milanesio N, Caropreso A, Gentile L, Cassader M, Cavallo-Perin P, Pagano G. Associations of dietary and serum copper with inflammation, oxidative stress, and metabolic variables in adults. The Journal of Nutrition. 2008 Feb 1;138(2):305-10.
- Araya, M., Pizarro, F., Olivares, M., Arredondo, M., González, M., & Méndez, M. (2006). Understanding copper homeostasis in humans and copper effects on health. Biological Research, 39(1), 183–187.
- Bügel, S., Harper, A., Rock, E., O'Connor, J. M., Bonham, M. P., & Strain, J. J. (2005). Effect of copper supplementation on indices of copper status and certain CVD risk markers in young healthy women. The British Journal of Nutrition, 94(2), 231–236.