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Copper - The Nutrient You Never Knew You Needed

Copper nutrient benefits

Copper, a trace mineral, is an essential nutrient to the human body for many biologic functions. Researchers now believe it plays a role in fat metabolism as well.


While you may not have realized it, copper – yes, the same metal used in jewelry and plumbing – is actually an essential mineral needed for functions such as forming red blood cells, absorbing iron, developing connective tissue and supporting the immune system. Good dietary sources include oysters and other shellfish, leafy greens, mushrooms, seeds, nuts and beans.

Recently, researchers at University of California, Berkeley, have discovered that copper also plays a role in metabolizing fat – breaking it down so that it can be used for energy rather than stored. Lead researcher Chris Chang says that the finding could be very useful in obesity research.

Copper Deficiency

The RDA for copper for adults is 900 micrograms per day. One study by the Food and Nutrition Board has found that many in the US may be deficient. "The typical American diet doesn’t include many green leafy vegetables,” says Chang, “Asian diets, for example, have more foods rich in copper."

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Other factors may also play a role in copper deficiency, including excessive cow’s milk consumption and possibly by diets high in sugar, especially processed foods. Other reasons that one may have a copper deficiency include malabsorption syndromes such as celiac disease. Excessive zinc intake also interferes with the absorption of copper.

Copper-Rich Foods in Your Diet

Eating more copper-rich foods is the best way to meet your daily needs. Chang appropriately warns against the use of supplements in an attempt to control weight. Excessive copper intake not only will interfere with the absorption of other key dietary nutrients, but recent research shows that toxic levels can accumulate within the body causing damage, especially for those over 50.

Journal Reference:
Lakshmi Krishnamoorthy, Christopher J Chang, et al. Copper regulates cyclic-AMP-dependent lipolysis. Nature Chemical Biology, 2016; DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.2098

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