As we continue the series on trace minerals, we will look at copper, which is the third most abundant trace mineral in the body, and a vital one at the that. Copper is at the core of normal body function. Without it, we cannot form superoxide dismutase (SOD), the superpower of all antioxidants. Copper also helps our bodies create collagen, the protein that forms healthy joints and supple, young skin. It also has a role in helping our bodies store iron, a critical component of the formation of hemoglobin in red blood cells.
While actual deficiency is rare, some health experts believe that the average person eating a typical Western diet, could benefit from a small amount of supplemental copper. Deficiency symptoms are similar to those of iron including poor hemoglobin production, pale complexion, anemia, low energy levels, and even stunted growth.
Here are some of the health benefits you can reap by maintaining the recommended daily intake of copper, which is 900mcg per day (for an adult):
• Protection against heart disease: Research shows copper helps keep your heart in rhythm and blood pressure in check. Cholesterol also remains at healthy levels when copper levels are optimal. Copper is also a good antioxidant, so it improves your protection against heart disease and other degenerative diseases.
• Improved skin and hair color: Copper is a component of the dark pigment melanin that gives color to hair, skin and eyes. Melanin is a component in consistent pigmentation, so it helps prevent blotchy skin coloration. Copper supplements may also help reverse greying hair, if the change in color is caused by copper deficiency.
• Reduced joint pain: Copper has anti-inflammatory properties that can help relieve arthritis. Many people wear copper bracelets to combat the inflammation and pain of arthritis, and while a small amount of copper may be absorbed through the skin, supplementation is a simpler way to get a measured amount into your system to reduce symptoms of arthritis. Copper also helps the body manufacture elastin, a protein that keeps ligaments and blood vessels supple. And since it is involved in the production of collagen, proper amounts can help keep joints well cushioned and even plump skin and erase wrinkles.
• Stronger bones: Collagen also helps keep bone mineral density at optimum levels and may help prevent osteoporosis. In 1994, researchers at the University of California in San Diego found that postmenopausal women who took calcium alone got no benefit in preventing osteoporosis, but when copper, manganese, and zinc were added to the calcium, bone density actually increased.
Good sources of copper are nuts, seeds, raisins and shellfish. Before taking a copper supplement, talk to your healthcare practitioner to see if it is right for you.
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