Column #379 December 2, 2022
Copper is known as a base metal, but it and nine other metals are actually very precious for animal life which includes humans. Why? Because animals require certain metals in specific ratios and copper is just one. These metals are referred to as essential metals and are critical for healthy, bodily functions.1 2
Folks in the livestock business are always very concerned about the balance of nutrients in the diets of their critters. Just like pigs and chickens raised in confinement, cattle out on the open range can’t be ignored when it comes to minerals. The essential metals come from plants which absorb them from the soils. Gold, copper, lead, zinc, iron and such are not mined everywhere which is why all soils have mineral surpluses and deficiencies. When plant material or livestock from even small areas are harvested they will usually have mineral surpluses and deficiencies. This is why there are soil scientists.
Mining geologists search for concentrations of metals in order to find economic deposits which they can mine. One of the first exploration steps is the taking of hundreds, and even thousands, of surface soil samples for assaying. In food production farmers, ranchers, and soil scientists take the same approach but with a different objective. They are focused on the needs of plants or animals and what it will take to optimize their growth. When mineral deficiencies and excesses in a particular soil are determined, they are addressed with fertilizers and/or supplementation.
The modern approach to soil science commenced just after the middle of the 19th century—about 150 years ago. By the 1930s it was well established that in certain cases livestock required supplementation. But even today, nearly a century later I doubt that very many people worry about their personal mineral requirements. Do you? If not, listen up.3
In the developed world Ischaemic Heart Disease (IHD) is still on the rise with a greater fraction of the population composed of older people. IHD is chest pain or discomfort that recurs when part of the heart muscle does not receive enough blood. “Ischemic” means a body part is not getting enough oxygen-rich blood flow due to a blockage or restriction.4
For in-depth information about the importance of copper I recommend reading “Copper Deficiency May Be a Leading Cause of Ischaemic Heart Disease” by James J. DiNicolantonio, et al. It is loaded with information about the importance of copper for health. In it the authors explain how in the past, the most accepted theory for the cause of IHD was high total or elevated LDL cholesterol, which in turn was due to a high intake of dietary saturated fat. But that theory has been discredited in recent years. Indeed, recent meta-analyses have found no relationship between dietary saturated fat consumption and the incidence of IHD. Doubling down on this is Dr. Aseem Malhotra in his report titled “Saturated Fat Is Not the Major Issue.” Both reports explain why we should not fear eating animal fats.5 6
On the other hand, there seems to be other causes for IHD. One of them is a copper deficiency. “Numerous animal and human studies have demonstrated that copper deficiency can cause IHD and that copper supplementation or adequate dietary copper can improve many of the risk factors for IHD. Copper deficiency could be driving much of the current burden of IHD in the population.”5
Even with adequate copper consumption, deficiencies can be caused by the diet. Studies have shown that iron overload also induces mild copper deficiency. Also, the ratio of zinc to copper may also be important in the production of hypercholesterolemia. In rats, high ratios of zinc to copper in drinking water resulted in higher plasma cholesterol.5
Another point made by Dr. DiNicolantonio’s report is as follows: “Muscle meats typically contain a high ratio of zinc to copper, up to 50:1, and consumption of large amounts could result in copper imbalances. Organ meat, in contrast, has a zinc:copper ratio of about 2:1. Alan Gaby, MD, stated that the ‘average copper content of fruits and vegetables declined by 81% between the years 1940 and 2000, presumably because of changes in farming methods that decreased the availability of copper in the soil.’ The reductions of copper in meat, cheese and other dairy products are also substantial (55%, 91% and 97%, respectively). Thus, our current dietary pattern as well as copper depletion in the food supply is undoubtedly contributing to the problem of copper deficiency.”5
When all of the essential minerals are taken into consideration, their intertwined relationships seem never ending and are very complex.
The human body needs 10 essential metal elements. Until about 1950, when it came to humans, poor attention was given to the so-called "inorganic elements" and while research on “organic elements” [Carbon (C), Nitrogen (N), Oxygen (O), and Hydrogen (H)] and organic compounds were given high priority. But that has changed since studies on essential inorganic elements for humans have advanced considerably. It is ascertained today that metals such as Sodium (Na), Potassium (K), Magnesium (Mg), Calcium (Ca), Iron (Fe), Manganese (Mn), Cobalt (Co), Copper (Cu), Zink (Zn) and Molybdenum (Mo) are essential elements for life and our bodies must have appropriate amounts of them.7
It’s impossible for plants or animal bodies to manufacture essential minerals. They come from our diets. The minerals come from rocks, soil, and water, and they're absorbed as the plants grow or they are acquired by animals as the animals eat the plants (or eat animals that ate the plants).
The essential minerals—those necessary for human health—are classified into two equally important groups: major minerals and trace minerals.
The major minerals, which are used and stored in large quantities in the body, are Calcium (Ca), Chloride (Cl‾), Magnesium (Mg), Phosphorus (P), Potassium (K), Sodium (Na), and Sulfur (S). The trace minerals are just as vital to our health as the major minerals, but we don't need large amounts. Minerals in this category include Chromium (Cr), Copper (Cu), Fluorine (F), Iodine (I), Iron (Fe), Manganese (Mn), Molybdenum (Mo), Selenium (Se), and Zinc (Zn). Not all of these minerals are actual metals.
Selenium (Se), Fluorine (F), Iodine (I), Sulfur (S), and Phosphorus (P) are near- or non-metals.
Well, now that we are aware of the importance of mineral balance in our health and that it’s managed via the diet and/or supplementation, how do we know how to get it right? My heads-up on this came from Sabrina Arguelles, APRN, FNP-C. She runs a Mobile Concierge Medical Care service in Bonita Springs, Florida where she is highly focused on healing above and beyond drugs and operations.8
For nutrient balances Sabrina relies on blood test results from Cell Science Systems (CSS). CSS is a specialty clinical laboratory that develops and performs laboratory testing in immunology and cell biology supporting the personalized treatment and prevention of chronic disease. Its tests do not just provide highs and lows, but are far more complex in that they provide an analysis vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and other nutrients. A sample test is in the foot notes.9 10
Below, in Sabrina’s own words, is how she uses the tests.
“The micronutrient test results along with the patient's current presenting symptoms, medical history, and current medications allows me to formulate a comprehensive treatment plan for the patient. The patient may be experiencing some adverse symptoms that can be completely eliminated by supplementing with a specific nutrient that they may be severely deficient in. Sometimes the patient may be taking a medication that can block the body from absorbing certain nutrients.
“Our bodies are machines that are meant to perform correctly when we provide them with the right nutrients or ‘fuel.’ The micronutrient test results will help identify any severe or potential deficiencies that if not corrected, can cause diseases such as Dementia, Alzheimer's, Diabetes, Hormone Imbalances, Depression, Anxiety, Hair Loss, Weight Gain, and more.
“The micronutrient test also provides individualized information on Antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. The patient’s white blood cells are tested with specific herbs and supplements to see what specific herbs and supplements will work for them as antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. This provides valuable information to help the patient in achieving optimal health and wellness.”8
"Our bodies are machines . . ."
To your health.
Ted Slanker has been reporting on the fundamentals of nutritional research in publications, television and radio appearances, and at conferences since 1999. He condenses complex studies into the basics required for health and well-being. His eBook, The Real Diet of Man, is available online.
For additional reading:
1. Precious Metals and Other Important Minerals for Health from Harvard Health
2. Essential Metals in Health and Disease by Klaudia Jomova, et al.
3. History of Soil Science from Wikipedia
4. Ischemic Heart Disease: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments from Healthgrades Marketplace
5. Copper Deficiency May Be a Leading Cause of Ischaemic Heart Disease by James J DiNicolantonio, et al.
6. Saturated Fat Is Not the Major Issue by Aseem Malhotra
7. The Essential Metals for Humans: a Brief Overview by Maria Antonietta Zoroddu, et al.
8. Nuesana Health and Wellness by Sabrina Arguelles, APRN, FNP-C
9. Cell Science Systems Corp.—a specialty clinical laboratory