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Originally published February 12 2014

Copper toxicity: Are you getting too much?

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) Getting too much copper in your diet can produce a whole host of health problems in numerous bodily systems, warns Lawrence Wilson, MD, who runs the nonprofit Center for Development.

Although trained as a doctor, Wilson works exclusively as a nutritional consultant and promotes a healing system called nutritional balancing science.

Copper is an essential trace mineral, meaning that small amounts are required for good health and proper body function. Foods high in copper include nuts, seeds, grains, eggs and meat; additional dietary copper can come from drinking water carried in copper pipes.

Like many nutrients, copper can be toxic in high doses. Acute toxicity (copper poisoning) can come from rapidly ingesting large amounts of copper in a short time via sources such as vitamin and mineral supplements, uncoated copper pots, coins (including U.S. pennies produced before 1982), copper wire, and certain insecticides, fungicides and aquarium products.

Symptoms of copper poisoning include abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea (which may be bloody and blue in color). Other symptoms may include anemia, jaundice and liver failure, chills, fever, burning sensations, metallic taste, muscular aches, weakness, lack of urine output, shock and even convulsions. Anyone suffering from copper poisoning should seek immediate medical attention but should not induce vomiting unless specifically instructed to do so by a medical or poison control professional.

Chronic toxicity

According to Wilson, however, much lower levels of copper than those required for poisoning can also produce long-term health problems. He claims that a proper copper-zinc balance is essential for the normal functioning of numerous bodily systems, including the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system, thyroid gland and skeletomuscular system, as well as cellular energy production. Therefore, excess copper can produce many of the same symptoms as zinc deficiency.

Wilson claims that high levels of copper can produce reproductive problems ranging from infertility and PMS in women to erectile dysfunction and prostate problems (enlargement, infections and even cancer) in men, as well as loss of libido in both sexes. It can also produce mood and energy problems, and even a certain degree of physical numbness.

Wilson says that, because copper and vitamin C act as direct antagonists in the body, high levels of copper may reduce vitamin C levels, leading to connective tissue problems, free radical damage and other symptoms of vitamin C insufficiency. In contrast, higher vitamin C levels may help flush excess copper from the body.

Emerging evidence

A number of recent studies have begun to uncover some of the mechanisms by which excess copper can produce chronic health problems. A 2008 study conducted by researchers from the University of Miami School of Medicine and published in the journal Laboratory Investigation confirms that copper produces both oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction in the nervous system. This may partially explain copper's role in brain diseases ranging from Alzheimer's to Wilson's disease (a genetic condition characterized by copper accumulation in tissues, liver disease and neurological or psychiatric dysfunction) and even prion conditions such as mad cow disease.

More recently, researchers from the University of Rochester found that even ordinary dietary doses of copper may directly contribute on multiple levels to the development of Alzheimer's disease. They found that copper induces inflammation in the brain, damages the blood-brain barrier (making it more difficult for the brain to flush out toxic materials) and encourages the brain to form clumps of toxic amyloid beta proteins.

Another recent study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that copper - while apparently not carcinogenic - actively promotes tumor growth in patients who have already developed cancer.

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