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How does copper keep us healthy?

Copper is a mineral found in the body that affects your blood cells. Copper is necessary to maintain a healthy nervous system and strong bones. In addition, your immune system needs copper to fight sickness. Problems caused by copper deficiency include osteoporosis and anemia. You can usually get enough copper in your diet by consuming a variety of foods, like grains, nuts, beans, meats, fish and potatoes.

Copper plays a role in energy production, connective tissue formation, iron metabolism and central nervous system function. It also helps activate antioxidant enzymes and regulate gene expression. Though deficiency is rare, symptoms include immunity dysfunction and anemia. Copper is toxic at very high levels.

Anemia (a shortage of red blood cells) can be a clinical clue to copper deficiency. When copper is low, iron accumulates in the liver instead of being transported to the bone marrow, where it is used to form new red blood cells.

High zinc intake can interfere with copper absorption, by boosting the production of a protein in the intestinal wall that binds tightly with copper, thus limiting its bioavailability.

Skin Health

Copper is involved in an enzyme reaction that cross-links collagen and elastin, giving skin its youthful elasticity and plumpness. It also supports melanin formation, essential for pigmentation of skin.

Bone Health

Copper helps link the long strands of proteins that make up the connective tissue throughout the body. It’s essential to bone formation, and studies show that it can help prevent loss of bone calcium when dieting. A small study found that dieting women with higher copper intakes (about 3 milligrams per day) kept more calcium in their bones than those with lower intakes (just over 1 milligram per day).

Pregnancy Health

In a 2006 China Medical University study, researchers found that mothers of premature babies were low on copper, suggesting that deficient copper could undermine collagen production and contribute to a more precarious pregnancy. Other animal research suggests copper deficiency during pregnancy could lead to lower levels of certain enzymes needed for infants’ brain development.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.