The reduced red blood cell function and shortened red cell life span found with copper deficiency can influence energy levels and cause weakness and labored respiration from decreased oxygen delivery. Low copper levels may also affect collagen formation and thus tissue health and healing. Reduced thyroid function, cardiovascular disease, increased cholesterol, uric acid and blood pressure, impaired glucose tolerance, thrombosis, oxidative damage, skeletal defects related to bone demineralization and poor nerve conductivity (copper deficiency adversely affects electrocardiograms) – including irregular heart rhythms – can all result from copper depletion.
Copper deficiency results in several abnormalities of the immune system, such as a reduced cellular immune response, reduced activity of white blood cells and, possibly, reduced thymus hormone production, all of which may contribute to an increased infection rate. Infants fed an all-dairy (cow's milk) diet without copper supplements may develop copper deficiency.
Copper deficiency can contribute to some cardiovascular risks. Aortic aneurysms may be a genetic condition related to a defect in the ability to store or absorb copper. Copper is a cofactor for lysyl oxidase, an enzyme that is responsible for the connective tissue integrity by crosslinking elastin. Elastin is the main material of several important organs, which include blood vessels, spinal discs, lungs and skin. In theory if you have a family or personal history of aneurysms, consider taking 2-4mg of copper per day, especially if significant amounts of zinc have been or are being consumed.
Men are more susceptible to aneurysms than are young women, probably because estrogen increases the efficiency of copper absorption. However, women can be affected by this problem after pregnancy, probably because women must give the liver of their unborn babies large copper stores in order for them to survive the low milk copper.
Copper deficiency, due to its effects on ceruloplasmin, may cause an iron-deficiency anemia which can only be corrected with copper supplementation as it impairs iron absorption, reduces heme synthesis and increases iron accumulation in storage tissues. [J Orthomol Med 4( 2): pp.99-108, 1989]
A copper deficiency has been associated with weakening of connective tissue that can be a contributing factor for the development of cerebral aneurysms and hemorrhagic strokes.
"Thyroid and immune system health are crucially dependent upon copper. As far as I can see now, copper deficiency is the most important factor in the development of hyperthyroidism. Virtually all hypers in the hyperthyroidism group have found that copper supplementation reduced their symptoms, usually within hours or a few days at most. Most have reported that within three to six months of beginning copper supplementation, they have been able to significantly reduce their intake of antithyroid drugs. While copper is the big story in hyperthyroidism, it is not the whole story. If it were, it would have been discovered years ago. Proper copper metabolism interrelates with and depends upon many other nutrients." [John Johnson, iThyroid.com]
There are a limited number of studies that suggest low copper levels may reduce thyroid function. In cases where hypothyroidism is not responding properly to medication, make sure that copper levels are normal.