Functional copper status

The body's total copper content is the end result of a balance achieved between absorption and biliary excretion. In comparison to other trace elements, relatively little copper is present in the body, usually about 100mg. The largest tissue pool of copper is in the skeleton, followed by the muscle;60 however, the major site for storage of exchangeable copper is the liver,61 which contains 4-6 mg/g wet weight.60 This is followed by the brain, kidney and heart.

Functional copper status, however, is not dependent only on the absolute copper content of the body. Utilisation of absorbed copper is also modulated by the interactions of copper with a number of other factors, deriving from the general status and requirements of the body. Furthermore, individual organs have the potential to modulate copper status by retaining copper in response to dietary restriction. This capacity is highly organ-specific, being stronger and/or more sensitive in some tissues than in others. Depletion studies in animals have found plasma to possess almost no copper conservation mechanisms, whereas the heart and brain were shown to conserve most of their endogenous copper during periods of restriction.62 Liver copper conservation mechanisms, while induced only after levels had dropped to around 60% of normal, were thereafter found to operate so strictly that almost no copper was exported into the plasma, and biliary copper excretion was also significantly reduced.

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