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Copper is a mineral that plays a role in the development of connective tissue and bones. It also takes care of the development of pigment in the hair and a proper functioning of the immune system. Copper is a co-factor of numerous enzymes.
Copper is mainly found in offal, seafood, shellfish, nuts and cereal products. Furthermore, vegetables, fruits and cocoa products are sources of copper.
- Important for the pigmentation of the skin and hair.
- Helps to keep connective tissue of the skin supple.
- Important for cartilage and strong blood vessels.
- Supports the immune system, energy level and iron transport in the body.
- Important for the nervous system. Copper plays a role in the development of nerve cells and the transfer of impulses between nerve cells.
- Helps in protecting body cells against external influences, such as air pollution, UV radiation and free radicals.
A copper shortage is rare in most people. The risk of a shortage is higher in neonates, premature babies and children who have been malnourished. Severe shortage of copper leads to anemia, lighter skin, reduction of the immune system and bone defects, such as osteoporosis.
An excess of copper is usually caused by contamination of food and/or beverages. This causes an excess of saliva, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
People with Wilson’s disease, a rare metabolic disease, suffer from an excess of copper. The body cannot properly process such an excess of copper. Therefore, it accumulates in the blood. These people should consult a dietician in order to follow a copper-restricted diet.
- The uptake of copper is inhibited by zinc and by a high intake of vitamin C.
- The term ‘copper’ is derived from the Latin words aes cyprium (ore of Cyprus). Several thousands of years before our era (about 3,000 to 2,300 BC), copper was extracted on this island.
- In the periodic table of elements, copper has the symbol Cu and atomic number 29. The color is reddish-orange.
- Copper is a trace element. This means that only very small quantities are needed (micrograms to milligrams).