How to identify if you have copper deficiency

How to identify if you have copper deficiency

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Copper deficiency is very rare, since the body does not need large amounts of this mineral and a normal diet provides it. However, if the deficit does occur, there are several negative health consequences.

How to identify if you have copper deficiency

Last update: 08 July, 2022

Copper deficiency is a topic that is not talked about much, despite its great importance. Although this deficit is not very common, the truth is that can cause serious health problems. Hence the importance of learning to identify it.

Most of this mineral is concentrated in the liver, muscles and bones.. However, it is also present in low amounts in all tissues of the body. That’s why copper deficiency can harm you in multiple ways.

In general, copper deficiency prevents proper metabolism. It also weakens the bones and the nervous system. Also, it reduces the antioxidant action that protects cells from damage caused by free radicals. We will talk about all this below.

Copper and its importance in health

Copper is an essential mineral for the proper functioning of the body.

Copper is the third most present mineral in the body, after calcium and iron.. However, the body is not able to produce it and, therefore, it must be obtained from the diet. Its role is very important in maintaining good health. Among their contributions are the following.

  • Maintenance of a healthy metabolism. This mineral helps enzymes work properly. Copper deficiency can lead to slow metabolism.
  • Contribution of energy and vigor. It is essential for the synthesis of the protein ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which is known as “the fuel of the body”.
  • Promotes brain function. Copper is involved in the production of dopamine, so low levels of this mineral affect mood in general.
  • Helps reduce arthritis symptoms. There are indications that it can help reduce the pain caused by arthritis. However, there is not enough evidence in this regard.
  • Protects the nervous system. This mineral helps maintain the myelin sheath, a layer that covers the nerves and influences the well-being of the nervous system in general.
  • Maintains the skeletal system. Copper plays a decisive role in maintaining bone structure. There are several studies that prove that its consumption enhances the effectiveness of calcium supplements.
  • Influences growth and development. It helps form red blood cells, along with iron. Therefore, copper deficiency influences normal growth and development.
  • Helps balance thyroid function. An investigation proved that copper, in combination with other minerals, favors the balance in the functioning of the thyroid.
  • Helps prevent anemia. This mineral plays a very important role in the absorption of iron. Therefore, copper deficiency favors the appearance of anemia.
  • Helps maintain healthy eyes, skin, and hair. Participates in the production of melanin, tyrosinase and collagen. This affects the good health of the eyes, skin and hair.

What is copper deficiency

Copper deficiency is a rare condition in which there are not enough copper levels in the body. May be caused by an inherited disorder or develop throughout life. In the first case, the effects can last forever. If the condition is acquired, it can usually be treated successfully. The main causes of copper deficiency are as follows.

hereditary disorders

Inherited copper deficiency is known as Menkes disease. and occurs in one in every 100,000 births. It affects only male children who, in most cases, die before the age of 3. One third of those affected have no family history of this disease.

The diet

Most people achieve meet the body’s copper needs through a normal diet. However, there are some conditions that lead to this not being enough:

  • cow’s milk formula fed babies.
  • Excess zinc in the diet. This hinders the absorption of copper.
  • Persistent childhood diarrhea.
  • Total parenteral nutrition; that is, when people are fed intravenously for a long time.

gastrointestinal disease

People with celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, or short bowel syndrome are more likely to develop copper deficiency. Also, those who suffer from Crohn’s disease or tropical sprue.



Surgery

Some surgeries can exacerbate the deficit of certain vitamins, such as B12, and this favors copper deficiency. In particular, care should be taken with stomach surgical procedures, including bariatric surgery.

Symptoms and diagnosis

Diagnosis of copper deficiency based on the presence of certain clinical symptoms and a blood test. The latter makes it possible to detect low levels of the mineral, as well as a copper-bearing protein called “ceruloplasmin”. What are these symptoms that allow us to identify copper deficiency? Let’s see.

fatigue and weakness

Copper deficiency can cause anemia, as this mineral is crucial for iron absorption. When there is iron deficiency anemia, the body does not transport enough oxygen to the tissues. This lack of oxygen makes a person more easily fatigued and weak..

frequent infections

Copper deficiency favors the weakening of the immune system. Specifically, the production of white blood cells is reduced and, in particular, neutrophils, which are the body’s first line of defense. This makes it easier for someone to get infections frequently.

brittle bones

An investigation found that copper deficiency favors osteoporosis. The mineral participates in the creation of cross-links within the bones and stimulates the production of osteoblasts. If its level is not adequate, the bone tissue is less strong and more difficult to regenerate.

memory and learning problems

Enzymes that supply energy to the brain use copper to function properly. In fact, one study found that people with Alzheimer’s disease have up to 70% less copper than the average person.

Difficulty walking

Copper deficiency reduces the efficiency of some enzymes that have the role of transmitting signals from the spinal cord to the brain. So, one of the consequences is loss of coordination when walking, or instability when doing so.

sensitivity to cold

Having less copper than normal in the body leads to imbalances in thyroid hormones. The thyroid helps, among other things, to regulate metabolism and produce heat. So if you are affected, you will most likely feel cold more easily.

Pallor

As we indicated before, copper is associated with the production of melanin. This substance influences skin tone. When there are deficiencies of the mineral, the skin looks paler than normal. There are still not enough studies on this.

premature gray hair

Melanin also influences hair color. If there is copper deficiency and, therefore, the production of melanin is affected, gray hair may appear. As in the previous case, there is still not enough research on this topic.

Vision problems

Long-term copper deficiency can lead to vision loss. This is because this mineral influences the correct function of several enzymes that affect the nervous system. If there is a deficit, vision is lost over time.

How to overcome copper deficiency

Cashew nuts are among the foods that provide copper to the body.

If the cause of copper deficiency is Menkes disease, it will be necessary to inject this mineral under the skinthat is, subcutaneously. However, as we have already noted, most children with this disease die before the age of 3. In fact, they almost never exceed 10 years of life.

When the deficiency is acquired, the cause will have to be established and treated accordingly.. In any case, it is best to acquire the necessary copper through food.

The major natural sources of copper are beef liver, oysters, lobster, lamb liver, squid, dark chocolate, raw oats, sesame and sunflower seeds or roasted almonds, raw cashews and the mushrooms.

Consume copper in its proper measure

Just as copper deficiency is negative for health, so is excess. A common source of this mineral is the water that comes out of the tap, since a good part of the pipes are made of this material.

Likewise, cooking on copper cookware can leach some copper particles into food. Tobacco use also causes copper to accumulate in the body.

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