Health Zone: NUTRITION : MIGHTY Mineral 18 - COPPER - A WINNER'S METAL; 20 WAYS TO GET YOUR DAILY QUOTA OFCOPPER

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Byline: ANGELA DOWDEN

Recommended daily amount 1.2mg Breast-feeding women need 1.5mgTHIS week, in our final look at how to consume the right amount of various nutrients, we investigate copper. Liver, oysters and avocados are rich in this mineral. Although it's often thought of as an industrial metal, copper is also required in regular daily amounts for human health. Copper plays an important role in the development of red blood cells because we need it to help absorb and use iron. It is also part of our disease- defence systems, and is needed to make adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy created in cells the body runs on.

Copper helps the body use vitamin C, and is essential for the formation of collagen and elastin - connective proteins which help maintain the elasticity of skin, blood vessels, ligaments and the lungs. In addition, it is a vital factor for strong bones and required for forming melanin, which colours hair and skin.

Copper has been said to be useful in conditions such as psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis but this has not been conclusively proved.What does it do?

What happens if we don't get enough?

The Government's Dietary and Nutritional Survey of British Adults shows the average intake of copper is 1.6mg per day in men and 1.2mg in women - equal to or just above the amount recommended.

But breast-feeding women and people with poor diets may consume too little. Symptoms of deficiency include anaemia, a drop in "good" HDL cholesterol and bone abnormalities.

TIP Zinc interferes with copper absorption, so people taking zinc tablets for more than a few weeks should also take copper.

2 tubes Rowntrees fruit gums They're high in quite a few minerals because a mineralised water is used for the sugar syrup that makes the gum.

2 tablespoons cooked lamb's liver Liver is one of the best sources of copper because this is where animals store the mineral.

3 oysters

Shellfish is the highest provider, followed by oily fish (only one-twentieth of the amount) and white fish (one-fortieth). …