Although copper (Cu) is recognized as an essential trace element, uncertainties remain regarding Cu reference values for humans, as illustrated by discrepancies between recommendations issued by different national authorities. This review examines human studies published since 1990 on relationships between Cu intake, Cu balance, biomarkers of Cu status, and health. It points out several gaps and unresolved issues which make it difficult to assess Cu requirements. Results from balance studies suggest that daily intakes below 0.8 mg/day lead to net Cu losses, while net gains are consistently observed above 2.4 mg/day. However, because of an incomplete collection of losses in all studies, a precise estimation of Cu requirements cannot be derived from available data. Data regarding the relationship between Cu intake and potential biomarkers are either too preliminary or inconclusive because of low specificity or low sensitivity to change in dietary Cu over a wide range of intakes. Results from observation and intervention studies do not support a link between Cu and a risk of cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline, arthritis or cancer for intakes ranging from 0.6 to 3mg/day, and limited evidence exists for impaired immune function in healthy subjects with a very low (0.38 mg/day) Cu intake. However, data from observation studies should be regarded with caution because of uncertainties regarding Cu concentration in various foods and water. Further studies that accurately evaluate Cu exposure based on reliable biomarkers of Cu status are needed.
Keywords: Biomarkers; Copper; Dietary reference value.
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