Discover Copper Online

Spring 2001

Munch Chocolate for Health

Here's a scientific reason why you shouldn't feel guilty about snacking on chocolate bars: it's a rich source of copper, which is essential for good health. If you munch chocolate, choose the dark variety over milk chocolate, since the dark contains over four times as much copper as the lighter stuff, according to Carl Keen, professor of nutrition and internal medicine, University of California, Davis. For example, a three-ounce bar of dark chocolate can contain 0.75 milligrams of copper. That's more than the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for children and a healthy fraction of the RDA's 0.9 to 1.6 milligrams daily for teens and adults.

Chocolate Kisses + Copper = Good Health When you give "Kisses" to loved ones, you're also providing some of the copper needed for good health

However, if you are leery of the extra fat and calories in chocolate, there are many other tasty sources for the copper we need. Here, with their concentrations of milligrams of copper per ounce of net weight, are some of the food sources recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.): oysters (3.12), squid (0.54), brazil nuts (0.50), pecans (0.34), chick peas (0.24) and beef liver (1.28). Cereals, mushrooms, split peas and goose breast are other good sources of copper.

Why do humans—animals and plants too—need copper to develop healthily? According to the Human Nutrition Research Center of the U.S.D.A., Grand Forks, North Dakota, copper helps the body digest other essential elements. For instance, without copper, iron accumulates in the liver and becomes toxic. The body also needs copper to create collagen, the fibrous component that binds heart muscles together. And more aches and pains are associated with insufficient copper.

"Copper deficiency in children may result in retarded growth and development," said Professor Keen. "In adults, a deficiency may result in many metabolic problems, including anemia, heart and circulation dysfunction, bone abnor-malities, and complications to the nervous and immune systems, lungs, thyroid, pancreas and kidneys."

Nutritionists recommend ingestion of approximately one to two milligrams of copper daily. However, most adults, even in the developed nations, don't ingest even that small amount. There's another reason why we may not digest enough copper: the Vitamin and Mineral Nutrition Laboratory of the U.S.D.A., Beltsville, Maryland, discovered in experiments with rats that diets high in fructose, and other sugars, markedly increase copper deficiency in rats. Yet another good reason to avoid too much sugar.

The body stores extra ingested copper to be released as needed, according to nutritionist Bonnie Ransom Stern of BR Stern Associates, Annandale, Virginia. If enough copper is stored, excess copper is transported to the liver to be eliminated.

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