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When one thinks of metals like silver or copper and their role in our everyday health, the connotation is usually negative or, at best, neutral. It’s easy to hear the word ‘metal’ and jump straight to something like heavy metals in our food or drinking water. And, without such concerns, most people who don’t work in some field of science or construction have little experience with metallic forms thus reducing the elements to mere names on the cold and clinical periodic table hanging in the background of a boring high school chemistry class – frozen in the amber of the past.
But, just for a moment, consider the biological and medicinal history of something like copper – just one of the many metal elements that are essential to animal and plant life. With atomic number 29 and the symbol Cu from the Latin cuprum, copper rose to prominence in Cyprus where the metal was mined during the days of the Roman Empire. Whether in its pure or industrialized form, copper is known for its thermal and electrical conductivity as well as its unique color shine. It combines with zinc to help make the brass and bronze that go into everything from musical instruments to jewelry to germicidal doorknobs. Like silver, copper’s diversification and long-time, widespread use is partly attributable to its safety and antimicrobial properties.
Also, it may surprise some to learn that humans already contain copper at the level of approximately 1.4 to 2.1 mg for each kg of body weight. The bones and muscles all benefit from the distribution of copper in the bloodstream thanks to a plasma protein known as ceruloplasmin. The liver gets its supply of copper bound to albumin when the nutrient is absorbed in the digestive tract and then metabolized and excreted along with toxins in the bile.
In fact, being deficient in copper can lead to a myriad of symptoms including anemia. Chronic copper depletion has metabolic consequences and carries risk of poor dopamine synthesis, which in turn, causes depression.
It is fairly easy to consume a good amount of copper in foods such as lobster, oysters, steak, pepper, cocoa, several nuts and sunflower seeds. Of course, strict vegetarians may elect to get their daily 1 mg through supplements or safe copper compounds such as copper sulfate. Or, combine regiments accordingly. Milk and eggs tend to block absorption and are bad gastronomical accompaniments to the foods mentioned above.
This doesn’t mean it’s a great idea to go sauté a steak or steam milk in copper cookware. As always, an excess of this nutrient can lead to other complications such as Wilson’s disease. So, remember what the Greeks always said –everything in moderation. After all, copper was first put to heavy use in that part of the world anyway.
The information supplied in this article is not to be considered as medical advice and is for educational purposes only.