(NaturalNews) Both iron (Fe) and copper (Cu) are necessary elements in the body and vital to numerous processes for good health. Iron, in particular, is known for its use in the transportation of oxygen in the bloodstream, while copper is known for regulating processes in the reproductive, glandular and nervous system. However, they are only beneficial at low levels, and in proper balance.
Researchers from the Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine at the University of Buenos Aires conducted a telling study in the acute toxicity of these transitional metals, determining their role in several tell-tale signs of disease.
It concluded that iron and copper build-up in the liver create oxidative damage and greatly increase the rates of free radical reactions, which in turn damage organs and trigger health decline and disease.
Once toxic levels of these two elements reached overload capacities, the incidence of liver chemiluminescence - a sign of liver failure - increased several fold, four times for iron and two times for copper, while the rate of phospholipid peroxidation - which accompanies tissue damage - increased four times in iron and nearly two times (1.8) in copper.
Numerous other studies have also confirmed the toxicity of excess copper and iron, both in larger acute doses, and more significantly, in lower-level chronic doses, such as those consumed through diet. While this can occur through foods, disproportionate consumption of vitamins and nutritional supplements containing (frequently recommended) iron and copper may be more important in contributing to the problems of too much of these metallic elements. Copper can be more damaging when it comes in the inorganic form, which some people encounter through tainted drinking water.
Excess Iron Leads to Oxidation of Body Tissues, Organ Damage and Disease
Iron is needed by humans at different levels, with pregnant women using the most iron in the development and growth of the fetus, while children also need a great deal of iron (proportional to their size). Adult men also require less dietary iron than non-pregnant adult women, with the CDC recommending 27 mg/day for pregnant women, 7-10 mg/day for children, 8 mg/day for men and 18 mg/day for women, until they reach age 50.
Hemochromatosis - a severe iron overload - can occur, where excess iron stores in organs like the the heart and liver, contributing to oxidation and tissue damage in the body, as well as a number of diseases, symptoms of which include severe fatigue, early menopause, loss of sex drive, high blood sugar and diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver, irregular heart beat and heart failure.
Too much iron is actually more common today than too little iron, in part as a result of government-sponsored programs to fortify a plethora of foods in grocery stores with additional iron.
Excess Copper Leads to Neurological Damage
Too much copper begins to accumulate in the brain and liver, as well as other secondary organs, and can lead to neurological disorders - which typically begins with mild cognitive dysfunction but can advance to Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. Copper toxicity can also trigger liver disease, cirrhosis and/or cancer (but first shows with signs of chronic fatigue) as well as disruptions to kidney, heart and glandular/hormonal function, and infertility.
The tendency toward excess copper is most marked in those with the genetic disorder known as Wilson's disease, who are most predisposed to bioaccumulate copper.
While there are recommended daily allowances for dietary copper intake of 220-700 mcg/day for children and 900 mcg/day for adults (and a slightly higher 1,000-1,300 mcg/day for pregnant and nursing women), most people in the Western world consume more than enough copper without effort.
The Competing Roles of Zinc, Iron and Copper in the Body
The essential mineral zinc competes for absorption with both copper and iron, including in blood transport, and higher levels of zinc have been found to suppress the negative reactions of copper overload. Some studies have focused on the association of high copper and lower zinc with anxiety and depression.
Other studies have shown the benefits of eating Spirulina in reducing copper toxicity, by aiding in its elimination from the body. The trace mineral molybdenum is also antagonistic and blocks copper absorption.
Iron absorption can be blocked by both zinc and manganese.