Copper is Great at Fighting Fat and Flab, says New Study
Copper, specifically the dietary copper you get from eating green veggies and oysters, plays a key role in metabolizing or burning-up fat in the human body, according to research from the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and at the University of California, Berkeley.
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The new findings for the first time establish copper's role in fat metabolism. It's long been known, however, that copper is needed to form red blood cells, absorb iron, develop connective tissue and support the immune system.
"We find that copper is essential for breaking down fat cells so that they can be used for energy," said Chris Chang, who led the study.
"It acts as a regulator. The more copper there is, the more the fat is broken down. We think it would be worthwhile to study whether a deficiency in this nutrient could be linked to obesity and obesity-related diseases."
Copper as a nutrient can play a role in restoring the natural way to burn fat. It's plentiful in foods such as oysters, some shellfish, leafy green vegetables, mushrooms, nuts, seeds and beans.
An adult's estimated average dietary requirement for copper is about 700 micrograms per day said the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine. The board also found that only 25 percent of the U.S. population gets enough copper daily.
Of the copper in human bodies, high concentrations are found in the brain. Recent studies, including those led by Chang, have found that copper helps brain cells communicate with each other by acting as a brake when it is time for neural signals to stop.
"Copper is not something the body can make, so we need to get it through our diet," said Chang. "The typical American diet, however, doesn't include many green leafy vegetables. Asian diets, for example, have more foods rich in copper."
Chang, however, warns against taking copper supplements since too much copper can lead to imbalances with other essential minerals, including zinc.