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Thursday, 16 June 2016
A new study is further burnishing copper's reputation as an essential nutrient for human physiology. A research team led by a scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, has found that copper plays a key role in metabolizing fat.
Long prized as a malleable, conductive metal used in cookware, electronics, jewellery and plumbing, copper has been gaining increasing attention over the past decade for its role in certain biological functions. It has been known that copper is needed to form red blood cells, absorb iron, develop connective tissue and support the immune system.
The new findings, appearing in the July issue of Nature Chemical Biology, establishes for the first time copper's role in fat metabolism.The team of researchers was led by Chris Chang, a UC Berkeley professor of chemistry. Researchers found copper is essential for breaking down fat cells so that they can be used for energy. Copper also acts as a regulator. The more copper there is, the more the fat is broken down. They think it would be worthwhile to study whether a deficiency in this nutrient could be linked to obesity and obesity-related diseases.
Researchers say copper could potentially play a role in restoring a natural way to burn fat. The nutrient is plentiful in foods such as oysters and other shellfish, leafy greens, mushrooms, seeds, nuts and beans. According to the US Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine, an adult's estimated average dietary requirement for copper is about 700 micrograms per day. The Food and Nutrition Board also found that only 25 percent of the U.S. population gets enough copper daily.
Copper is not something the body can make, so we need to get it through our diet. The typical Western diet, however, doesn't include many green leafy vegetables. Asian and Mediterranean diets, for example, have more foods rich in copper. But it not advisable to refrain from ingesting copper supplements as a result of these study results. Too much copper can lead to imbalances with other essential minerals, including zinc. So take a multivitamin instead with a reasonable quantity of both copper and zinc.
Hints from cows
The connection between copper and fat metabolism is not altogether surprising. The researchers actually found hints of the link in the field of animal husbandry.It had been noted in agricultural literature that levels of copper in cattle feed would affect how fatty the meat was.
Source: Copper regulates cyclic-AMP-dependent lipolysis. Nature Chemical Biology, 2016;