Copper Clinical Evidence

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Berger MM, et al. Trace element supplementation modulates pulmonary infection rates after major burns: a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. 1998 Aug;68(2):365-71.

Topic:

Can increased supplementation with trace elements (including copper and zinc) help reduce pulmonary infections in patients with major burns?

Background:

The number one reason people die after major burns is infection. Patients often suffer short-term depletion of trace elements that support the immune system after being badly burned. Would supplementation help?

Study Type:

Human clinical intervention trial

Study Design:

Randomized, placebo-controlled. Subjects consumed either standard trace element intakes plus placebo, or standard trace element intakes plus supplements of trace elements.

Dosage:

For the control group: 20 micromol copper, 0.4 micromol selenium and 100 micromol zinc. For the treatment group: 40.4 micromol copper, 2.9 micromol selenium and 406 micromol zinc, for 8 days.

Subjects:

20 subjects, aged 40 +/- 16 years, with burns on 48 +/- 17% of their bodies.

Results:

Plasma levels of zinc and copper remained below normal in both groups until day 15 for zinc and day 20 for copper. Plasma levels of selenium remained normal in the treatment group, while they fell in the control group. Leukocyte (white blood cell) counts were higher in the treatment group. The number of infections per patient the treatment group (1.9 +/- 0.9) was significantly lower than in the control group (3.1 +/- 1.1).

Conclusion:

“Early trace element supplementation appears beneficial after major burns; it was associated with a significant decrease in the number of bronchopneumonia infections and with a shorter hospital stay when data were normalized for burn size.”

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Kelley DS, et al. Effects of low-copper diets on human immune response. 1995 Aug; 62(2): 412-6.

Topic:

What are the effects of a diet low in copper on the immune system?

Background:

Copper is known to support immune function. What happens when copper intake is low, and how quickly can these effects be reversed?

Study Type:

Human clinical intervention trial

Study Design:

Subject consumed a diet with varying levels of copper in three phases

Dosage:

0.66 mg for 24 days, followed by 0.38 mg for 42 days, followed by 2.89 mg for 24 days

Subjects:

11 healthy men, aged 21-32 years

Results:

During the middle (low copper) phase of the study, there was a significant decrease in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (including lymphocytes, monocytes and macrophages) and an increase in the percentage of circulating B cells (a kind of lymphocyte that makes antibodies). In the final (high-copper) phase, blood levels of copper were restored to normal, but indexes affected by the low copper diet persisted.

Nihon Rinsho (Japanese Journal of Clinical Medicine)

Kodama H.  Essential trace elements and immunity. 1996 Jan; 54(1): 46-51.

 

Topic:

What are the effects of trace minerals on the immune system?

Background:

Historically, the immune system has been divided into two parts: humoral and cell-mediated. Humoral immunity was so named because its protective effects were found in the body humor (serum), whereas cell-mediated immunity referred to the protective effects of white blood cells. Trace minerals are known to support immunity—but which kind?

Study Type:

Review paper

Dosage:

Varied by study

Summary:

The author finds that deficiencies in zinc, iron, copper, and selenium can all cause dysfunction of cell-mediated immunity.  However, these deficiencies do not affect B cell function. Additionally, excess supplementation can also impair the immune system.

Conclusion:

“Among essential trace elements in humans, zinc, iron, copper and selenium are essential for the integrity and optimum function of the immunity…A proper balance of these elements is essential for maintenance of immunocompetence.”

Mechanism of Action

Copper deficiency causes dysfunction in both the humoral and cell-mediated branches of the immune system. When copper stores are low, numbers of CD4+ (helper) cells and total T cell counts fall. This is due to reduced production of interleukin-2, a cytokine that helps T cells divide and differentiate. Long-term copper deficiency also damages enzymes that serve as antioxidants and can even cause changes to the phenotype (structure and chemistry) of immune cells.