Copper is an essential trace element (i.e., micronutrient) that is required for plant, animal, and human health. It is also required for the normal functioning of aerobic (oxygen-requiring) microorganisms.
Copper stimulates the immune system to fight infections, to repair injured tissues, and to promote healing. Copper also helps to neutralize "free-radicals", which can cause severe damage to cells.
Copper's essentiality was first discovered in 1928, when it was demonstrated that rats fed a copper-deficient milk diet were unable to produce sufficient red blood cells. The anemia was corrected by the addition of copper-containing ash from vegetable or animal sources.
As an essential trace element, daily dietary requirements for copper have been recommended by a number of governmental health agencies around the world.
Dietary sources of Copper
Copper is an essential trace mineral that cannot be formed by the human body. It must be ingested from dietary sources.
Eating a balanced diet with a range of foods from different food groups is the best way to avoid copper deficiency. In both developed and developing countries, adults, young children, and adolescents who consume diets of grain, millet, tuber, or rice along with legumes (beans) or small amounts of fish or meat, some fruits and vegetables, and some vegetable oil are likely to obtain adequate copper if their total food consumption is adequate in calories. In developed countries where consumption of red meat is high, copper intake is also likely to be adequate.
Foods contribute virtually all of the copper consumed by humans. The best dietary sources include seafood (especially shellfish), organ meats (e.g., liver), whole grains, legumes (e.g., beans and lentils) and chocolate. Nuts, including peanuts and pecans, are especially rich in copper, as are grains such as wheat and rye, and several fruits including lemons and raisins. Other food sources that contain copper include cereals, potatoes, peas, red meat, mushrooms, some dark green leafy vegetables (such as kale), and fruits (coconuts, papaya and apples).
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