Discover Copper Online

Spring 1994

Copper Has Key Role in Healthy Hearts

Check your cereal box label for copper content

Copper-bearing enzymes play a key role in the proper functioning of the heart and in defending against oxidative damage. According to Dr. Leslie Klevay, evidence keeps mounting that a deficiency of copper in one's diet can lead to heart attacks. Klevay is the top expert on the role of copper in the diet at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Human Nutrition Research Center, Grand Forks, North Dakota.

The most compelling evidence comes from autopsies and biopsies of those who have suffered heart attacks. Klevay says their heart muscles showed a significant deficiency of copper. "Most Americans," he adds, "don't ingest enough copper in their diets."

Besides the foods illustrated, nuts, seeds, legumes, peanut butter, mushrooms, liver, and certain prepared cereals contain the dietary copper essential for good health.

Image courtesy of Maryland Fisheries Commission.

Dr. Klevay has just completed an analysis of surveys of over 200 popular American diets. He concludes that "61% of U.S. daily diets provide less than the recommended minimum of 1.5 milligrams of copper and one third provide less than 1 milligram."

To provide enough daily copper, Klevay urges consumption of foods high in copper, such as nuts, seeds, legumes, peanut butter, chocolate, mushrooms, liver, oysters and certain prepared cereals. To determine which of the prepared cereals help meet the daily requirement for copper, check the listings of nutritional content on the packages.

The recommended foods should be emphasized over those that provide little or no copper, such as fats and oils, skimmed milk, yogurt, mayonnaise, jellies and jams, corn, tuna, lettuce and whiskey.

Image courtesy of Hershey Corporation.

Lungs Affected Too

Copper-deficient diets can also damage human lungs. Klevay notes that rats and pigs fed a copper-deficient diet had "lungs that resembled those of people with emphysema."

Can people receive needed copper from what might dissolve in their water from copper plumbing? The amount of copper from plumbing in municipal water supplies is so minute it doesn't contribute, accord ing to experts who have studied this. Nevertheless, Klevay quotes from a recent study of water supplies in Seattle that reveals those whose homes contain copper plumbing had better pulmonary function overall than those with no exposure to copper plumbing.

According to Klevay, women need as much copper as men even though they may metabolize it somewhat differently. For children, he recommends copper in diets propor tional to recommended calorie intakes.

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