Copper is essential for both iron and zinc utilization, as well as for maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system. Copper, along with iron, is necessary to produce hemoglobin (the part of the red blood cell that carries oxygen from the lungs to all the cells in the body). Copper is necessary for normal development and maintenance of blood, bone, nerves, connective and other tissues. A deficiency of this essential trace mineral has been implicated in a variety of disorders.
Copper parallels iron. Iron is the essential element in hemoglobin. But, without copper, iron is not transported correctly throughout the body. Iron depends upon copper to become part of the red blood cells, therefore anemia results from a lack of iron and copper. The body can’t metabolize iron without the help it gets from copper. As blood levels of copper drop, iron absorption decreases, red blood cell production is inhibited, and anemia develops.
Copper contributes to the structural integrity of connective tissue throughout the body. Collagen, the protein responsible for bone, skin, cartilage, and tendon elasticity, integrity, and strength, requires copper for proper reproduction. It is an important component of elastin (the connective tissue that gives elasticity to the blood vessels, lungs, and skin, allowing them to move and stretch with changes in pressure or movement). Because of copper’s role in the integrity of connective tissue, even a marginal deficiency could potentially contribute to the onset of aneurysms. Copper activates numerous enzymes and is involved in the development and maintenance of the cardiovascular system, the skeletal system and the structure and function of the nervous system.
Symptoms of Deficiency:
Symptoms of copper deficiency include fatigue, bleeding under the skin, damage to blood vessels, and an enlarged heart. Anemia is common, and the number of white blood cells is decreased. The diagnosis of copper deficiency is based on symptoms and on blood or hair analysis tests that detect low levels of copper and ceruloplasmin (a protein that contains copper).
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