The amount of copper mineral in an adult body is estimated to be 100-150mg. It is a micronutrient which means it is needed in a small amount.
Copper is widely distributed in nature. Even poor diets provide enough copper for human needs. The liver is the richest source of copper having 4-5 percent of it. It is found in legumes, and in many other foods. Milk is however deficient of it. 10 percent of it is absorbed and the remaining passes out of the feces. The fecal copper includes a small part which is initially excreted in bile.
These are as follow
- Ceruloplasmin or hemocuprein: It is a serum protein, blue-green in color, which has 0.35% copper. 90% of the plasma copper is in combination with ceruloplasmin and the rest is probably bound with albumin.
- Erythrocuperin: It is a copper-containing protein present in red blood cells which normally have about 30 mg of this protein/dL of packed cells.
- Cerebrocuperin: It is a protein which is present in the brain.
- Copper-containing enzymes: These include cytochrome oxidase, catalase, tyrosine, uricase, monoamine oxidase and ascorbic acid oxidase. Superoxide dismutase present in the RBCs is also copper continuing enzymes.
Average serum copper level is 114µg/dL. It is increased in pregnancy, various infections, Hodgkin’s diseases, collagen disease, hyperthyroidism, and hemochromatosis. Hypocupremia is seen in Wilson’s disease, malabsorption syndrome, nephritic syndrome and kwashiorkor.
- It is needed for the formation of red blood cells.
- It is needed for a better transport of iron from iron reserves to the plasma; release of iron from the reservoirs and mitochondrial production of heme.
- Copper may have a role in the absorption of iron from the intestine. The copper continuing proteins of the plasma, ceruloplasmin helps in the absorption of iron from GIT, it probably acts as ferroxidase catalyzing the conversion of ferrous to ferric which is then taken up by apoferritin.
- Copper increases the effectiveness of iron therapy in the treatment of nutritional anemia in infants.
Copper is found in most foods so that a dietary deficiency of copper is almost impossible. Human beings liable to suffer from its deficiency include the infants fed an exclusive milk diet, those who have undergone intestinal bypass surgery, persons on parental nutrition and those who take an excessive amount of zinc. Its deficiency results in anemia, retardation of growth, degenerative changes in the aorta, elastin, mental deterioration and scurvy like changes in the skeleton. One of its best-documented abnormalities due to its deficiency is neutropenia.
Normally it does not lead to toxicity if it’s ingested in a large amount but there arise two diseases due to problems in its metabolism leading to the excess amount of copper in the body. These are
Wilson’s Disease (hepatolenticular degeneration)
It is a rare disease which is caused by an autosomal recessive disorder that leads to an increased absorption of copper from the small intestine but a decrease biliary secretion. An excess of copper, therefore, is present in the in the liver, lenticular nucleus of the brain and the descement’s membrane of the cornea.
Menke’s Disorder (Steely hair syndrome)
It is an X linked genetic disorder which is associated with the poor copper absorption. Its signs are kinky hair, failure to grow, mental deterioration and degenerative changes in the metaphysic of bones and in the elastin.
Amna Sheikh is a medical doctor with a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS), Bachelors in Economics and Statistics. She is also a medical writer working as a freelancer for 10+ years and she is specialized in medical, health, and pharmaceutical writing, regulatory writing & clinical research. All her work is supported by a strong academic and professional experience.