Nutrient deficiencies can be an important factor in cardiovascular health and disease. There has been growing evidence that copper deficiency as well as defective copper metabolism may be a major contributing factor to cardiovascular disease.
Copper and Enzymes
At least 12 enzymes exist in the body that doctors call “cuproenzymes.” These are dependent on copper to function. An example is tyrosinase, which the body uses to make melanin, a compound present in the skin cells. The body also depends on copper to break down iron.
A copper deficiency in the blood is called “hypocupremia” and it is a condition which is often underdiagnosed.
What are the symptoms?
Copper deficiency can be hard for doctors to diagnose because the symptoms are like many other conditions. For example, the symptoms associated with copper deficiency are similar to those of vitamin B-12 deficiency.
Low copper levels can affect a person’s immune system and energy levels. Examples include:
- always feeling cold
- easy bone breakage
- easy bruising
- getting sick easily or frequently
- pale skin
- poor growth
- skin inflammation
- skin sores
- unexplained muscle soreness
Very low copper levels can cause problems with muscle movement as well.
Because the body mostly absorbs copper in the stomach and then in the small intestine, problems with either organ often affect a person’s ability to absorb copper.
Many times, copper deficiency is the result of stomach surgery that can affect absorption.
Zinc supplementation is also a common cause of copper deficiency. This is because zinc and copper compete for absorption in the stomach, with zinc being the usual winner. As a result, copper isn’t absorbed.
This journal article from the Journal of Nutrition discusses this copper deficiency issue:
Cardiovascular Disease from Copper Deficiency—A History
Leslie M. Klevay
Although the nutritional essentiality of copper was established in 1928, a preoccupation with hematology delayed the discovery of cardiovascular disease from copper deficiency for more than a decade. Anatomical studies of several species of deficient animals revealed, interalia, aortic fissures and rupture, arterial foam cells and smooth muscle migration, cardiac enlargement and rupture, coronary artery thrombosis and myocardial infarction. Abnormal biochemistry in deficiency probably contributes to these lesions, e.g., decreased activities of lysyl oxidase and superoxide dismutase which result in failure of collagen and elastin crosslinking and impaired defense against free radicals. Copper deficiency also decreases copper in hearts and other organs and cells and increases cholesterol in plasma. Abnormal physiology from deficiency includes abnormal electrocardiograms, glucose intolerance and hypertension. People with ischemic heart disease have decreased cardiac and leucocyte copper and decreased activities of some copper-dependent enzymes. Copper depletion experiments with men and women have revealed abnormalities of lipid metabolism, blood pressure control, and electrocardiograms plus impaired glucose tolerance. The Western diet often is as low in copper as that proved insufficient for these people. Knowledge of nutritional history can be useful in addressing contemporary nutritional problems.
This Nutrients journal article discusses the consideration of defective copper metabolism:
An Emerging Role of Defective Copper Metabolism in Heart Disease
Laboratory assessment of copper levels as well as other nutrients is readily accessible and inexpensive and is certainly worth considering as part of a diagnostic work up for cardiovascular disease as well as other health conditions.
About the Author
Robert Lamberton, a Master Formulator of professional-grade supplements, works with select companies, clinics, and practitioners to develop cutting-edge formulations. He is a certified Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (FNTP) who specializes in helping patients resolve complex health issues, optimizing their quality of life, and reversing their biological age. He has been a guest instructor and lecturer at Boucher Naturopathic Medical School (BINM) in Vancouver, BC. Lamberton also produces a weekly newsletter for practitioners that covers the latest published research, including information that has yet to reach the clinical community. Learn more at RobLamberton.com.