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Copper Misconceptions

Quite often, modern scientists toil for decades only to discover something that our ancestors knew all along from observation and keen intuition. Even after the essential discovery is made, it may take years before the official health guidelines catch up with the scientific research. It is because of this that copper, an absolutely essential element for human health, has only recently started to attract the attention of nutrition gurus. Still today, not many people know that they are at risk of copper deficiency which may put them in danger of many illnesses, not to mention accelerated aging of skin and hair.

The slow process of recognizing the importance of copper was best highlighted by Dr. Leslie Klevay in his paper published in 1996 [“Deliberations and evaluations of the approaches, endpoints and paradigms for dietary recommendations about copper”, Klevay & Medeiros 1996]. He reviewed the last 10 editions of the Recommended Daily Allowances (RDAs) guidelines and observed that in the 1943 edition the recommended daily amount of copper was estimated at 1-2 mg/day, and in a 1958 edition (15 years later), it was stated that “2 mg/day will maintain adults in balance”.

In the same 1958 edition, he found a statement that mentioned “a typical diet” usually supplies 2-5 mg of copper a day, and that the deficiency of this metal is very rare. However, in the 1989 edition, we see a reference to the National Food Consumption survey conducted in 1987-1988, according to which an average intake of copper was 1.2 mg/day for males and only 0.9 mg/day for females—a statistic well below the recommended 2mg/day. In this same edition it was also stated that copper intake as high as 3 mg/day may be necessary to maintain good health. The current RDI (Recommended Dietary Intake established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration) for copper is 2 mg/day.

 

Another reference that should be considered is the estimated safe and adequate daily dietary intakes or ESADDI (Natural Research Council, 1989) which recommends a daily intake of 1.5-3 mg of copper. Recently, U.S. dietary guidelines underwent another major revision and RDAs were replaced by The Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) established by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine, 1997-2001. The World Health Organization gives 10 mg/day as the tolerable upper limit of copper intake.

Copper deficiency

Out of the blue, the recommended intake of copper was set up as 0.9 mg/day —a number that is clearly not enough to assure adequate copper intake! For example, a paper published in 2010 by Chambers et al studied the effects of copper deficiency and excess. This study came to the conclusion that to prevent copper deficiency optimum intake for copper should be 2.6 mg/day (which is well below the level where any adverse effects can be seen).

 

The sudden drop in the recommended intake of copper is more interesting when you take into consideration that estimated daily loss of copper is about 1.3 mg/day. This is one of the reasons why it is so dangerous to lower copper consumption below 2 mg/day (Williams 1983). Active males should also be aware that additional daily loss of copper due to sweating may be as high as 0.34 mg/day ( Jacob 1981).

But is copper really that important and worth such an in depth discussion? Absolutely! In fact, copper deficiency may be a leading cause of many so-called “diseases of civilizations” that currently plague the population in the United States. Furthermore it may also be the main reason why our skin and hair lose their health and vitality as we age.

 

Since copper peptides of course contain copper, many ask about the function of copper within the body. As they learn about how copper works and experience its benefits, they also want to know about its safety.

 

Copper is an essential metal necessary for many processes in the human body. A deficiency in copper can contribute to a host of health problems, including a higher rate of: cellular oxidation, cancer, cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, LDL “bad cholesterol”, lipid oxidation, aortic aneurysms, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, chronic conditions involving bone and connective tissue, brain defects in newborns, obesity, graying of hair, sensitivity to pain, Alzheimer’s disease, reproductive problems, depression, and fatigue; as well as lowering HDL “good cholesterol”, reduction in the pleasure producing brain enkephalins, and impaired brain function.

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