Functions Of Copper In Our Body: Health Benefits & Dietary Sources

Copper is an important trace mineral required for various activities in the body. It is a constituent of many enzyme systems like oxidases and hydroxylases. After iron and zinc, copper is the third mineral that is found in abundance. Approximately adult human contains 75 to 150 milligrams of copper. In infants the concentration of copper is more than adults.

Liver, heart, kidney, brain contain highest amount of copper. Copper circulating in blood is high in women than in men. There is significant rise in serum copper level when a woman is pregnant or if she is taking contraceptive pills.

The amount of copper required by the body is met from dietary sources. It is not produced in the body. Normally dietary deficiency of copper is rare; however its deficiency leads to anemia, growth retardation, joint stiffness and pain, rise in LDL cholesterol, loss of skin and hair color, weakness, mental deterioration, osteoporosis, weak bones, low immunity, thyroid disorders etc.

Most of copper is absorbed from the first part of intestine (duodenum). The absorbed copper is carried by blood plasma protein called cerulospasmin. In order to avoid copper deficiency, it is necessary to eat food that is high in copper.

Natural Dietary Sources Of Copper

The adequate daily intake of copper for adults is 1.5 to 3mg, below are given the best sources of copper.

  • Liver: Beef or chicken liver is rich source of copper.
  • Sea foods: Oysters, mollusks, shellfish and lobsters.
  • Nuts and oil seeds: Areca nuts, walnuts, dry coconut, almonds, mustard seeds, cashew nuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and poppy seeds.
  • Fruits: Oranges, pomegranate, pear, green grapes, ripe papaya, ripe banana, pineapples and plums.
  • Vegetables: Betel leaves, dry lotus stem, white radish, beetroot, celery leaves, onions, potatoes, cauliflower, egg plant and fenugreek leaf.
  • Dried herbs: Dried basil, marjoram, oregano, thyme and savory.
  • Pulses and legumes: Whole lentil, kidney beans, black soya beans, red gram, roasted peas and black gram.

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.

Health Benefits And Functions Of Copper

Copper even though required by body in small amount has many essential roles to play.

  • Anemia: Copper helps the conversion of iron into hemoglobin, the oxygen carrying protein in the blood. It has been noted that iron deficiency anemia resolves more quickly if both iron and copper are given.
  • Iron absorption: Copper is necessary for absorption, transportation and utilization of iron. It encourages production of red blood cells.
  • Connective tissue: Copper works with vitamin C to form elastin. Elastin is a type of connective tissue. It is the chief component of elastin muscle fibers throughout the body.
  • Hair and skin: Melanin is the pigment which gives color to hair and skin; it is produced by melanocyte cells. Copper acts as an intermediary for production of melanin from melanocytes.
  • Brain stimulant: Copper is known to stimulate brain functions. However, too much of copper may not be beneficial for brain. Therefore its right quantity helps the brain to function well.
  • Healthy bones: Copper enhances the process of bone formation and its maintenance.
  • Healing of wounds: Its enzymatic action in healing of wounds is important. Adequate copper in the body effectively heals the wounds easily.