Long-term high copper intake: effects on indexes of copper status, antioxidant status, and immune function in young men

Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Jun;79(6):1037-44. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/79.6.1037.


Background: Short-term high copper intake does not appear to affect indexes of copper status or functions related to copper status, but the effects of long-term high copper intake are unknown.

Objective: A study was conducted in men to determine the effect of long-term high copper intake on indexes of copper status, oxidant damage, and immune function.

Design: Nine men were confined to a metabolic research unit (MRU) for 18 d and were fed a 3-d rotating menu providing an average of 1.6 mg Cu/d. The men continued the study under free-living conditions for 129 d and supplemented their usual diets with 7 mg Cu/d. The men then returned to the MRU for 18 d of the same diet as during the first period, except that copper intake was 7.8 mg/d. Plasma copper, ceruloplasmin activity, ceruloplasmin protein, plasma malondialdehyde, benzylamine oxidase activity, erythrocyte superoxide dismutase, hair copper, urinary copper, and urinary thiobarbituric acid-reactive substances were measured during each MRU period.

Results: Ceruloplasmin activity, benzylamine oxidase, and superoxide dismutase were significantly higher at the end of the second MRU period than at the end of the first. Urinary copper excretion, hair copper concentrations, and urinary thiobarbituric acid-reactive substances were significantly higher during the second MRU period than during the first. Polymorphonuclear cell count, the percentage of white blood cells, lymphocyte count, and interleukin 2R were affected by copper supplementation. Antibody titer for the Beijing strain of influenza virus was significantly lower in supplemented subjects after immunization than in unsupplemented control subjects.

Conclusions: Under highly controlled conditions, long-term high copper intake results in increases in some indexes of copper status, alters an index of oxidant stress, and affects several indexes of immune function. The physiologic implications of these changes are unknown.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Benzylamine Oxidase / blood
  • Ceruloplasmin / metabolism
  • Copper / administration & dosage
  • Copper / metabolism
  • Copper / pharmacology*
  • Diet*
  • Humans
  • Immune System / drug effects*
  • Male
  • Nutritional Status
  • Superoxide Dismutase / metabolism


  • Copper
  • Superoxide Dismutase
  • Ceruloplasmin
  • Benzylamine Oxidase