Some authorities believe that our average intake is higher than our actual needs, that low intakes are uncommon, and that toxicity is a potential problem. Others believe that a low intake is more common because soil depletion has decreased the copper level in many foods and because many people avoid natural, copper-containing foods. Copper is an essential trace mineral needed for good human health. It is also one of the most important blood antioxidants. A copper deficiency causes higher serum cholesterol levels along with the lesions similar to those seen in coronary artery disease. Its deficiency is associated with hypercholesterolemia (increased levels of fat in the blood) and myocardial (heart muscle) degeneration.
Copper Gluconate is a common supplemental form. Various forms of copper (salts, amino acid chelates) are now available.
Inadequate intake of Copper can result in such diverse symptoms as anemia, hypercholesterolemia, impaired glucose tolerance, pancreatic atrophy, cardiomyopathy, and increased mortality. Copper insufficiencies can result from increased fructose intake, poor diet, increased age, alcohol or drug abuse, bowel disease or partial removal, and long-term intravenous nourishment.
If copper levels are low, supplemental copper should be taken for its connective tissue strengthening effect.
A German physician first observed the role of copper in healing, noting that broken bones seemed to heal faster when patients were given a copper salt during convalescence. Since then, the role of copper in the biosynthesis of bone and connective tissue has been well established, although its mechanism of action is only partially known [Tenaud et al. 1999]. Copper supplementation has enhanced bone healing. It works with vitamin C to create strong collagen, and it creates cross-links in collagen and elastin that give strength to proteins.
NOTE: Long-term high-dose copper is not recommended as a long-term dietary supplement because there is significant evidence that it generates too much free-radical activity throughout the body. On the other hand, therapeutic, short-term supplementation of copper (8mg daily) to enhance wound healing at localized injury sites is appropriate. Copper supplementation as early as possible after serious burns has been demonstrated to replenish the copper depletion that is so typical of burn victims.
Excess copper may be acquired from commercial vitamins and minerals or drinking water flowing through copper pipes. Distilled water may occasionally be needed to reduce copper intake.
People with Wilson's disease should eliminate copper as far as possible from their diet, environment and supplement sources.
Copper has a mild anti-inflammatory effect. The use of copper bracelets in the treatment of arthritis has a long history, and wearers continue to claim positive results. The copper in the bracelets reacts with the fatty acids in the skin to form copper salts that are absorbed into the body. The copper salts may cause a blue-green stain on the skin, but this can be removed with soap and water. Recent research suggests that copper salicylate used to treat arthritis reduces symptoms more effectively than either copper or aspirin alone.