Copper: An Essential Element within the Body

Update March 2010 - These pages are being updated, they will be filled with detailed research material, so please check again in April

Copper is a mineral found in trace amounts in all tissues in the body. Although only a small amount is needed, copper is an essential nutrient that plays a role in the production of hemoglobin (the main component of red blood cells), myelin (the substance that surrounds nerve fibers), collagen (a key component of bones and connective tissue), and melanin (a dark pigment that colors the hair and skin). Copper also works with vitamin C to help make a component of connective tissue known as elastin.

Copper can act as an antioxidant. As an antioxidant, it scavenges damaging particles in the body known as free radicals. Free radicals occur naturally in the body and can damage cell walls, interact with genetic material, and possibly contribute to the aging process as well as the development of a number of health conditions. Antioxidants can neutralize free radicals and may reduce or even help prevent some of the damage they cause.



Many people wear copper bracelets for arthritis and for the other many benefits that copper offers. Some specialists claim that wearing a copper bracelet around the wrist for 30 days leads to the absorption into the body of 13 mgs of copper – taking into account the fact that the daily recommended dose of copper consists in 1-3 mgs.




Copper and other essential trace minerals cannot be formed by the human body. These minerals must be ingested in the diet or absorbed by the skin. The best dietary sources of copper include seafood (especially shellfish), organ meats (such as liver), whole grains, nuts, raisins, legumes (beans and lentils), and chocolate. Other food sources that contain copper include cereals, potatoes, peas, red meat, mushrooms, some dark green leafy vegetables (such as kale), and some fruits (such as coconuts, papaya, and apples). Tea, rice, and chicken are relatively low in copper but provide a reasonable amount of copper to the body because they are consumed in significant amounts.

The amount of copper available for absorption depends on the chemical form of copper in the food, the composition of the total diet, and the health and nutritional well-being of the individual. Individuals with chronic digestive problems may be unable to absorb sufficient amounts of copper, even though the foods they eat are copper-rich. Some forms of copper are not soluble in stomach acids and cannot be absorbed from the stomach or small intestine. Also, some foods may contain indigestible fiber which binds with copper and prevents it from being absorbed. High intakes of Vitamin C, zinc, and iron can also decrease copper absorption.





How much copper is good for the body?

Since copper is a natural substance that has always been with us in the environment, the human body has evolved an extremely effective and well-developed internal regulatory mechanism to ensure that the copper we ingest is put to use and that any excess is harmlessly eliminated. Copper toxicity is rare, the recommended daily dietary amounts for adults being 1-3 mg a day, 1/2-1 mg for children. Many vitamins and minerals can be toxic if taken in very large amounts. In North America, a maximum tolerable intake has been established at 10 mg/day. This is the highest level of copper intake that is not likely to pose a health risk to most adults in the general population. It does not mean that 10 mg/day is recommended as a daily intake level. Some specialists claim that wearing a copper bracelet around the wrist for 30 days leads to the absorption into the body of approximately 13 mgs of copper, resulting in less than 1/2 mg a day. Limiting exposure to copper is not necessary, unless you have Wilsons disease, which is a genetic based disease which is associated with the body’s inability to distribute or release copper.


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