Copper is essential part of life
Most of the copper in the body is located in the liver, bones and muscle, but traces of copper occur in all tissues of the body. The liver excretes excess copper into the bile for elimination from the body. Copper is a component of many enzymes.
Copper is involved in the absorption, storage and metabolism of iron. The symptoms of a copper deficiency are similar to iron deficiency - anemia. Copper may be absorbed by both the stomach and small intestinal mucosa, with most absorbed by the small intestine. Copper is found in the blood, bound to proteins.
Copper is utilized by most cells as a component of enzymes involved in energy production (cytochrome oxidase) and in the protection of cells from free radical damage (superoxide dismutase). Copper is also involved with an enzyme that strengthens connective tissue (lysyl oxidase) and in brain neurotransmitters (dopamine hydroxylase and peptidyl alpha amidating monoxygenase). One of the proteins, ceruloplasmin, transports copper as well as helping convert iron to a form that can be transported to other tissues. The average level of copper stored in the body is from 50 to 120 mg, with most of this in the liver. Excess dietary copper can also lead to high copper levels in the kidney. However, under normal situations, not much copper is excreted via the urine. Most copper is excreted via bile that is released into the gastrointestinal tract, with minimal copper reabsorbed by intestinal cells. The uptake of copper and elimination through the bile allows copper to be conserved and tightly regulated.
Animals that are fed diets deficient in copper often exhibit anemia, cardiac abnormalities such as blood vessel and heart rupture, abnormal EKG's and have elevated levels of serum cholesterol, triglycerides and glucose. A lifetime of marginal diet copper in humans is thought to lead to heart disease. Copper deficiency has been observed in premature infants and infants suffering from malnutrition. Overt symptoms in adults are rare, but may occur with long term shortage or, possibly, in those who consume zinc supplements for a period of time.