Healthy Living

Diabetes Patients Found to Have High Levels of Copper

Everyone knows that excessive consumption of sugars, carbs, and fatty food has a lot to do with the pathogenesis of diabetes and related complications. However, it is entirely possible that while focusing on these significant nutritional inbalances, there may be something missing something. Micronutrients may play an important role in the development of diabetes. 

Diabetes is truly a pandemic disease and the most widespread disorder in any nation. It touches 5-10 percent of the population anywhere on the globe. Another 30 percent of global inhabitants are at risk of developing diabetes in the near future. There is an urgent need to identify the causes of such a large-scale epidemic.

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Diabetes is diagnosed by measuring glucose levels in the blood; higher levels mean that a person has diabetes. However, diabetes is a metabolic disease, touching the balance of almost every kind of nutrients. A person living with diabetes has dyslipidemia (high level of bad cholesterol), disturbances of protein metabolism, and even altered levels of various mineral or microelements.

Diabetes is dangerous; it leads to various complications that may ultimately decrease the lifespan. The most important of the complications with diabetes is caused by the damage to the blood vessels. Both macro and micro vasculopathies characterize diabetes. Meaning both big and small blood vessels are damaged, and they lose the ability to regenerate.

Because of poor vascular health and a decreased capacity to repair blood vessels, those living with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing heart disease, stroke, kidney diseases, eye diseases, peripheral vascular complications, and much more.

Apart from managing the blood glucose levels in diabetes, it is essential to understand the role of various factors in vascular health. It is vital to know how specific nutritional changes may help to cope with vascular damage in diabetes. Now, the research indicates that disbalance of micronutrients like copper may have a critical role to play.

Role of copper in health

Copper is required in extremely small quantities by our body. Science does not fully understand its function. It is known to be potent antioxidant; it helps to maintain healthy blood vessels and blood cells. It is also required for healthy bones and joints.

In healthy subjects, copper is transported in the body with the help of a protein called ATP7A. It is a protein that is responsible for both the transportation of copper to the cells and out of them (in case copper is not required). ATP7A plays a critical role in the so-called angiogenesis or regeneration of blood vessels by helping to transport the copper and helping to maintain its optimal levels.

Copper in diabetes

Till date, what is known about diabetes is a disbalance of both the ATP7A and copper. Generally, people living with diabetes have higher levels of extracellular copper (copper in the blood), which could be due to the inadequate transportation of copper caused by the deficit of ATP7A. In animal models, it has been proven that a lack of copper transportation proteins causes a defect of regeneration of blood vessels.

For the last few decades, researchers have been puzzled by the finding that those living with diabetes seem to have higher levels of copper in plasma, and not lower. They were finding it difficult to explain the reasons behind the defects in vascular regeneration. However, now with the better understanding, they guess that this defect of angiogenesis has to do with the deficit of copper transportation protein ATP7A.

It is a situation that is similar to glucose. In diabetes, we have high blood glucose levels but our cells are starving due to a deficit of glucose. Similarly, researchers think that vascular endothelial cells that need more copper than other cells for regeneration and functioning are not getting enough copper due to the failure of ATP7A transporter protein.

It perhaps explains the paradox, where those living with diabetes seem to have a high level of copper in plasma than healthy subjects, yet they seem to be suffering from conditions characterized by the copper deficit.

At present, researchers do not understand that whether these disturbances in the copper metabolisms lead to diabetes and related complications, or diabetes results in the disturbances of copper metabolism. Whatever way the things may be happening, what science knows for sure is that the disturbed copper metabolism has something to do with the vascular complications, and its correction may help in diabetes.

Though researchers understand that it is a deficit of ATP7A not a shortage of copper intake that is a primary contributor for vascular dysfunction in diabetes, there is no known drug that may alter the levels of ATP7A. Researchers are looking for the drugs that could solve the issue in the future.

Copper may be helpful in diabetes

Though the blood tests would not show any deficit of copper in diabetes, it is well known that boosting the intake of naturally occurring copper may have several health benefits. Most of the investigators recommend increasing the consumption of food products that are rich in copper, though they do not necessarily suggest taking copper supplements. The reason being that copper in food products differ from that in supplements. In food products, it is associated with more complex organic molecules, and it is easier to transport to the cells, while supplements may lack that property or may even harm the body by increasing the plasma levels of copper.

Researchers recommend eating more of copper-rich food products like organ meats, boost your daily dose of leafy green vegetables, eat more nuts and seeds, legumes, whole grains, mushrooms. Using copper cookware can be a way to get the microdose of this beneficial microelement.

If one is living with peripheral complications of diabetes, like changes in the blood supply to feet, infections and tingling sensation in limbs. One of the beneficial things to do is to buy copper containing clothing and bedsheets. Yes, latest technology has allowed embedding the metals in small quantities in wearables too. Thus, copper infused socks may help to prevent foot infections. Copper-containing clothing may boost skin health by stimulating the production of collagen, improving the elasticity of the skin.


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