Benefits and Risks of High Dose Copper

Copper, alongside minerals like iodine, boron, and magnesium, is often misunderstood and underrated, despite their essential roles in our bodies. As the third most abundant essential trace mineral, after iron and zinc, copper’s importance should not be overlooked, especially considering its historical use as a healing tool for over 10,000 years. In the mid-20th century, copper was even deemed so safe that it was administered in high doses to children for therapeutic purposes.

Copper plays a critical role in our bodies, contributing to various physiological functions. It facilitates a healthy metabolism and immune system, assists in wound healing, and is necessary for cell proliferation, differentiation, and cell death. Copper is crucial for balancing thyroid activity, maintaining healthy hair, skin, and eyes, and it is indispensable for the normal growth and development of human fetuses, infants, and children.

Copper also plays a pivotal role in our metabolic health by stabilizing glucose and cholesterol metabolism. Deficiencies in copper can lead to an increase in cholesterol in the serum, a decrease in glucose tolerance, an increase in LDL and triglycerides, and a decrease in HDL. Copper further helps mitigate DNA damage, diabetes, and heart vessel damage and dysfunction, while also playing a crucial role in hemoglobin synthesis – i.e., making red blood cells. In essence, copper is fundamental for a plethora of enzymatic reactions, neurotransmitter biosynthesis, and crucially for iron homeostasis.

Copper’s significant role in our health cannot be overstated. High dose copper is a vital component for thousands of enzymes, serving as a building block for various bodily functions. It contributes to preventing oxidative stress by transforming oxygen into water or other usable metabolites in our bodies. Moreover, copper is integral to our mitochondria’s functioning, facilitating the production of energy, and the removal of the reactive oxidative species that result from our cellular respiration. Without adequate copper, our health would deteriorate rapidly.

Copper-dependent enzymes, such as cytochrome C oxidase, superoxide dismutase, tyrosinase, dopamine hydroxylase, lysyl oxidase, clotting factor V, and ceruloplasmin, rely on copper for their proper functioning. Deficiencies in copper can lead to a failure in one or more of these enzymes, resulting in conditions such as depigmentation, abnormalities in connective tissue, and problems with the vascular system.

It is important to mention that most studies on copper deficiency focus on acute, severe deficiencies, which are rare in humans and animals on varied diets. However, marginal, chronic deficiencies are much more common and can lead to a significant reduction in enzyme activity, even if the level of copper-dependent enzymes does not necessarily decrease.

Less acknowledged is copper deficiency’s impact on our metabolism. Insufficient copper and magnesium could impair our cells’ ability to create and bind ATP to magnesium, thus hindering our bodies ability to utilize stored energy effectively.

Another critical aspect of copper’s role in our health involves its interaction with iron. Excessive iron in our foods, bodies, and medicines can lead to toxicity. However, sufficient copper can help maintain iron homeostasis, and high doses of copper can assist in removing the excessive toxic amounts of iron from our tissues and organs.

In understanding copper and iron levels in our body, it’s vital to recognize that standard testing methods, which focus on blood serum levels, may not give an accurate picture since most of the minerals reside in tissues, organs, and bones. Additionally, copper levels are not the only indication of copper presence in the body, as ceruloplasmin levels in the blood also elevate in response to disease and inflammation.

Despite the numerous benefits, excessive intake of copper in the wrong form can lead to toxicity. However, instances of copper toxicity are rare and primarily occur due to intentional overdose.  Due to homeostatic mechanisms, it is extremely difficult to take toxic doses of copper. 

Further chronic dietary copper toxicity is not typically viewed as a public health concern, although genetic mutations affecting copper pumps can lead to copper buildup and dysregulation.  Even these might in fact be treated and are in several cases with higher doses of copper to correct them.

The risks and toxicity of copper have been a subject of confusion. Acute copper poisoning is extremely and aside from intentional suicide attempts in India decades ago, it is almost unheard of today.

Chronic exposure to copper, while less studied in humans, can occur in those who handle copper or its salts regularly, or consume food and water stored in copper vessels. Despite this, small amounts of copper exposure have been shown to alleviate conditions like arthritis and improve skin tone and condition. 

Wilson Disease is the most well-documented disorder of copper toxicity, characterized by excessive copper accumulation in the liver and other tissues. Before consuming high doses of copper, it’s crucial to rule out this mutation. Nevertheless, some hypotheses suggest that the toxicity issue in Wilson’s Disease may not be due to copper but another toxic issue such as fluoride and chloride interfering with copper in the body.

Without a doubt, copper plays an indispensable role in the body, necessitating a clear understanding of its benefits and potential risks. High dose copper can be beneficial but should be approached with caution, and always under supervision.


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