Why Heavy Metal Is Good for You

Heavy metal is good for you. In fact, it’s vital for your good health. Not the Black Sabbath kind of heavy metal — although your musical choices are your own — but the heavy metal, copper.  

Copper is a mineral found throughout your body. It’s an essential nutrient, because your body must have copper to function properly. Though you only need trace amounts of it, not getting enough (or getting too much of it) can pose health risks.

What Does Copper Do?

Copper has an important role in a number of functions within the body, including:

  • production of red blood cells
  • regulation of heart rate and blood pressure
  • absorption of iron
  • prevention of prostatitis, inflammation of the prostate
  • development and maintenance of bone, connective tissue, and organs such as the brain and heart
  • activation of the immune system

Can Copper Cure?

Copper has attracted interest as a therapeutic agent. Although still in the research phase, copper is being explored as a treatment for a number of conditions, including degenerative neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Copper and Cancer

Research on the effect of copper on cancer is a coin toss. Some studies show that copper may cause cancer. But a growing body of research, including a 2011 Italian study, indicates copper compounds are nearly as effective as cisplatin, a commonly used chemotherapy drug, in combating certain cancer cells. In fact, the study found copper to be three times more effective than cisplatin in treating adenocarcinoma of the colon.

About Those Copper Bracelets

Magnetic “therapy” bracelets have long been promoted as a wearable, ongoing treatment for arthritic pain. In 2013, British scientists decided to put copper bracelets to the test in a placebo-controlled trial. The result? The bracelets offer little or no therapeutic benefit. Furthermore, several study participants experienced skin irritation from the bracelets.

Where Do You Get Copper?

Because the body needs so little copper, you might think you can meet your requirements just by eating a balanced diet. However, this belief is being challenged by some researchers. For instance, some experts note that copper has been decreasing in Western diets since the 1930s. They also estimate that one-quarter of adults in the U.S. don’t get their daily requirement for copper.

Foods Rich in Copper

One easy way to make sure you’re getting enough copper is to eat enough foods that definitely contain it. You can find copper in shellfish and organ meats, such as liver. You can also get a good amount from vegetables like potatoes, peas, beans, and green vegetables. Whole grains and sunflower seeds also contain copper, and if you need an excuse to have some peanut butter or dark chocolate, here it is!

Healthy Blood

According to the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, people with sufficient levels of iron can still be anemic. If blood tests show you’re not getting enough copper, your doctor may recommend supplements. Copper supplements are available as pills and capsules. Copper also may be given intravenously by a healthcare professional. You should not take copper supplements and zinc supplements at the same time. It’s recommended that you wait at least two hours between taking each supplement.

What Can Cause a Copper Deficiency?

What Can Cause a Copper Deficiency?

If you are in good health, you’re not likely to be low on copper. In general, symptoms of copper deficiency may include tremors, tingling, and unstable gait. It may also cause numbness and fatigue. Anemia and loss of vision are other major symptoms.

Most people get enough copper from their diet. However, if you have a condition such as celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, or Crohn’s disease, or if you’ve had gastric bypass surgery, you may need supplemental copper. Premature infants are also more likely to have a copper deficiency. Finally, if you take supplemental zinc, your body may not absorb enough copper.

Menkes syndrome can also cause a copper deficiency. People who have Menkes syndrome can absorb copper from the food they eat. But their bodies don’t release it into the bloodstream properly. As a result, the body doesn’t get the copper it needs. Instead, copper tends to build up in the small intestine and kidneys. A rare genetic disorder, Menkes syndrome is normally detected in infancy. It is commonly called Menkes kinky hair syndrome because one of its characteristics is sparse, kinky hair.

The Takeaways
  • Copper is essential for organ function, red blood cell production, and much more.
  • Getting too much of it is just as dangerous as getting too little.
  • You can find copper in green vegetables, peanut butter, and organ meats.
  • Copper is essential for organ function, red blood cell production, and much more.
  • Getting too much of it is just as dangerous as getting too little.
  • You can find copper in green vegetables, peanut butter, and organ meats.]

Too Much of a Good Thing

Just as copper is necessary for survival, too much copper can be toxic, causing symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea, jaundice, and muscle pain.

In severe cases, toxic levels of copper can cause liver damage, heart and kidney failure, and death. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for copper has been set at 10 milligrams (mg) per day. More than this can cause toxicity symptoms. Wilson’s disease is an inherited disorder and occurs in which the liver is unable inability to discard excess copper. Copper then builds up in organs such as the brain, liver, and eyes, which causes damage over time. Wilson’s disease can be life threatening if not treated.

Heavy metal music is a matter of preference. If Black Sabbath gives you pleasure, protect your hearing and enjoy it. But the heavy metal, copper, has a nonnegotiable role in keeping you healthy.