Copper is one of the trace minerals, which is essential to the human health. These trace minerals along with vitamins, fatty acids, and amino acids are required for vital metabolic processes. A Human body can’t synthesize copper, so the diet must have an adequate amount of copper. The adult body contains about 1.4-2.1 mg of copper per kg of the body weight. Even this small amount of copper is essential for proper functioning of the body.
Copper is naturally found in the earth’s crust. Some foods are also rich in copper. Copper is most abundant in nuts, seeds of sunflower and poppy, chickpeas, oyster and liver. Some foods like cereals, fish and meat have sufficient copper; they can provide 50% of the daily requirement of the copper. Drinking water which is distributed through pipelines may contain sufficient copper. However, the copper content of water is not sufficient to provide the required amount. Some water filtration process eliminates metals from drinking water, so this process also removes the copper from it.
It was generally believed that the majority of the people consumed adequate quantities of copper. A recent survey finding revealed that only 25 percent of the United States population consumes the adequate amount of copper as suggested by the US Food and Nutrition Board. Diets in some industrialized countries also contain about less than 40 percent of the recommended dietary allowances of copper.
Copper has been in use in medicine for centuries. It is used for the purification of water and treatment of chest infection. Some research show that copper can help prevent arthritis and other join related inflammations. It is being used in radiology for the treatment of cancer, and for epilepsy. Research also suggests its anti-ulcer use. There is no scientific evidence of treatment of arthritis with copper, but some people believe that wearing copper bangles can alleviate the symptoms.
Some people who consume higher level of copper for short duration, such as drinking high copper content water may experience gastrointestinal discomfort, while long exposures of higher copper consumption may lead to kidney and liver damage. Patients of Wilson’s disease are more prone to copper overdose problems. Wilson’s disease or hepatolenticular degeneration is a rare inherited disorder. If both parents have autosomal recessive gene, then there is a 25 percent chance that the child will have the disorder. In this disease, too much copper accumulates in the body tissues. The excess of copper deposit in the liver, kidneys, brain, and the eyes. These deposits of copper damage tissues and stop organs to work properly.
Excessive copper intake may produce some undesirable effects. The symptoms of copper toxicity include nausea, vomiting and abdominal and muscle pain. Excessive body copper is usually removed with the use of specific chelating agents or by the consumption of high levels of zinc. Indian childhood cirrhosis or hereditary diseases such as Wilson’s Disease are the conditions in which human body accumulate excessive amounts of copper in the body. The body organs where this excess of copper is stored, lose its functions, which can lead to fatal consequences. Acute poisoning due to copper is a rare event, and it’s mostly due to consumption of copper nitrate/sulfate. Copper in its salt form is a strong emetic and high doses usually rejected by vomiting. Chronic copper toxicity is also rare. Human liver has the capacity to excrete a considerable amount of copper.