Thirty to forty percent of the copper we ingest is absorbed. With aging, the loss of efficiency of the liver may result in higher copper levels because elimination of excess copper depends on the bile production. Dietary fiber can alter copper levels in different ways depending on the amount of fiber ingested. Malabsorption diseases and gastrointestinal disease can impair copper levels and slowing of gastrointestinal motility increases copper absorption.
Vegetables are the major source of copper for humans but it is easier for us to extract it from animal protein and cooking meat makes the copper more available. Copper chloride, acetate, sulfate and carbonate are all highly bioavailable in animal nutrition. Processing of foods reduces copper content and high protein diets increase copper absorption, as do natural amino acids. Divalent cations, such as zinc, iron, tin, and molybdenum compete for copper absorption and reduce copper levels.
Copper plays a part in cholesterol metabolism, with the risk of cardiovascular disease increasing with a low copper intake.
Human breast milk has the highest copper content of all milks consumed by human beings. Cow’s milk has 4-6 times lower copper content than human milk. The bio-availability of copper is 24% in human milk and only 18% in cow’s milk.
Ascorbic acid reduces copper bioavailability but citric acid, lactic acid, acetic acid and malic acid (and the foods that contain them) increase copper bioavailability.
Salts of zinc are used to treat Wilson’s disease, an inherited copper storage disease in which copper accumulates in the body.
CONCLUSION: Copper is important to our health. Various factors listed above alter our intake of copper. Deficiencies have very specific results and can be treated by altering food intakes and by supplementation.
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