Copper is a trace mineral that is involved in metabolism, protein synthesis, proper immune function and the growth and development of bone and connective tissue. The body stores most of its copper in the liver.
Dietary copper is available from a wide spectrum of foods. Those with the highest concentration include seafood, organ meats, nuts, beans, lentils, whole grains, lemons, leafy greens and some fruits. Most healthy adults receive enough copper from foods if they have a relatively varied, balanced diet.
Copper deficiency is linked to a wide variety of health problems including osteoporosis, arthritis, cardiovascular disease and bone and connective tissue maladies. Those who are at the highest risk of copper deficiency include people with malabsorption disorders, chronic alcoholics, diabetics and those with eating disorders. Athletes may need to consume larger amounts of copper than the average population as they will metabolize it faster, and vegetarians are at higher risk of deficiency because it is more difficult to derive copper from plant based sources.
Excess copper can cause nausea and stomach problems, at higher levels copper is toxic and can cause oxidative damage and even death. Copper toxicity is usually caused by accidental ingestion of very large amounts, if the body is functioning properly excess dietary copper will be expelled through normal processes.