Copper (Cu) is one of the vital trace minerals for all living organisms. It can easily shift between cuprous (valence of +1) and cupric (+2) forms although most of the copper found in the body is in the Cu2+ form.
This ability of copper to accept and donate electrons easily explains its vital role in the redox (oxidation-reduction) reactions and in scavenging free radicals.
The Role that Copper Plays in the Body
Copper is one of the significant body building block minerals and provides numerous benefits to the body. Copper is an important functional component of several cuproenzymes, which are essential enzymes in the body. It has numerous functions in the body that include:
- Central nervous system – different reactions that are vital in the well-being of normal brain and nervous system functions are catalyzed by cuproenzymes.
- Energy production – cytochrome c oxidase, which is a copper-dependent enzyme, plays a major role in the production of cellular energy. Through catalyzing the reduction of O2 or molecular oxygen into H2O or water, the cytochrome c oxidase generates an electrical gradient that is needed by mitochondria in creating ATP; the essential energy-storing molecule.
- Iron metabolism – ferroxidase I (ceruloplasmin) and ferroxidase II are two copper-containing enzymes that have the ability to oxidize Fe2+ (ferrous iron) to Fe3+ (ferric iron). Ferric iron is the iron form that can be loaded onto proteins that will be transported to the site where the formation of red blood cells takes place.
- Formation of connective tissue – lysyl oxidase, another cuproenzyme is needed in the cross-linking of elastin and collagen that are required for the formation of flexible yet strong connective tissues. The function of lysyl oxidase aids in maintaining the integrity of connective tissues found in blood vessels and heart, and can also play a significant role in the formation of bones.
Along with the different bodily functions of copper are its health benefits to human. Known health benefits include: aiding the digestive tract to make food more easily digested; performs its duty in keeping the heart in proper condition; applicable in treating wounds and heals cuts and sores in the skin; and works in unison with vitamins and amino acids to prevent the body from the risks of several diseases.
It is relatively uncommon among individuals to have copper deficiency. Anemia is one of the most common clinical signs of having a copper deficit. It can also result in having the condition of neutrophils, which is having an abnormally low numbers of white blood cells in the body. The condition of neutropenia or neutrophils can be accompanied by an increased susceptibility to infection of the body. Bone development abnormalities such as osteoporosis can also arise especially to infants and young children due to copper deficiency. Some of the less common features of this deficiency include impaired growth, neurological symptoms, and loss of pigmentation.
The use of Copper in pots and pans
Copper alloyed accessories and kitchen materials are not harmful to people, which is why there is increased usage of this element because it has no side effects to humans.
The recommended dietary allowance for copper is:
|0 to 6 months||200 AI|
|7 to 12 months||220 AI|
|1 to 3 years||340|
|4 to 8 years||440|
|9 to 13 years||700|
|14 to 18 years||890|
|19 years and older||900|
|Pregnant (all ages)||1,000|
|Lactating (all ages)||1,300|
Food Sources of Copper
In order to prevent copper deficiency, it is good to indulge in copper rich foods such as Oysters, crimini (button) mushrooms, blackstrap molasses, calf’s liver, Swiss chard, turnip greens, mustard greens, spinach, sesame seeds, summer squash, kale, asparagus, eggplant, shiitake mushrooms, green beans, cashew nuts, sunflower seeds, potatoes, ginger root, sweet potato, tempeh, kiwifruit, soybeans, barley, garbanzo beans, Brussels sprouts, olives, pineapple, winter squash, bell peppers, fennel, walnuts, peanuts, lima beans, flaxseeds, venison, pears, garlic, kidney beans, navy beans, almonds, pinto beans, miso, strawberries, avocado, raspberries, onions, prunes and beets.
LPI; UCDavis; University of Maryland; IFAS.