In olden days, vessels were made of copper and of late, copper is returning to our kitchen in the form of flasks, drinking cups and the like. Now if we look at the reason behind copper being used as a vessel, there could be health related reasons as well besides its malleability.
Uses of Copper
Copper is required in traces for our body to absorb iron consumed through food from our intestines. Copper forms red blood cells and hemoglobin thereby combating anemia. New bone and connective tissue formation and energy production cycle of cells – all require copper.
Copper also plays a role in balancing cholesterol, blood pressure and heart rhythm. Unproven benefits include claims of copper’s role in the treatment of arthritis, and in the prevention of heart disease and cancer.
Deficiency of Copper
Children belonging to the age group six months to 13 years require 220 to 700 micrograms of copper as part of their recommended dietary allowance. Pregnant and lactating women require 1000 to 1300 mcg of copper. Low white blood count, prolonged bone demineralization leading to osteoporosis, skin and hair pigmentation issues, arthritis, inflammation, anemia and reduced energy metabolism are some of the typical results of copper deficiency. Weakening of connective tissues and heart damage are also attributed to copper deficiency in the human body.
In India alone 40-60% children and 29-34% of adults belonging to the tribal population suffer from copper deficiency. Worldwide around 2.2-8% of adults are affected by copper deficiency. Regularly consuming antacids may lead to copper deficiency.
Zinc and iron are found to interfere with the absorption of the necessary amounts of copper by the body. Vitamin C also is found to reduce copper levels in the human body.
Copper deficiency affects the nervous system as well. In children copper deficiency can lead to memory loss and learning disabilities. Impact of copper on the normal functioning of the brain is proved by the fact that people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease had up to 70% less copper as against those who didn’t have the disease. Vision loss, sensitivity to cold, and walking trouble are some of the other results of copper deficiency.
Sources of Copper
Vegetarians are found to be better equipped to combat copper deficiency because copper is naturally found in legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, drinking water, etc,. Artificial sources include meat.
Copper when consumed more than the recommended dietary allowance, causes vomiting and stomach pain. Irritability, restlessness, dizziness, muscle pain, diseases of the liver such as jaundice or liver cirrhosis are also caused by the excess consumption of copper. People who regularly use copper vessels for cooking/storing food or water should watch out for these symptoms of copper toxicity. Estrogen and thiazide diuretics may increase copper levels in body and people on hormone therapy or consuming diuretics should be careful and on experiencing any symptoms of copper toxicity should consult a doctor.
If your blood or urine copper test throws abnormal or unclear values, a liver biopsy is usually recommended. And if you find yourself to be on the lower side of copper, start drinking water from a copper flask.