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Copper affects the metabolism of fat
We all know copper as a malleable and conductive metal, which is often used for example in cookware and electronic parts. But human bodies also need copper. Apparently copper is much more important to our diet than was previously thought. A new study found that copper is very important for human physiology. Researchers found that copper plays a prominent role in the metabolism of fat.
In the past ten years, the importance of copper for certain biological functions has become increasingly interesting. For example, copper is needed to form red blood cells. It also absorbs iron, helps develop connective tissue and supports our immune system. Scientists from the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and researchers from UC Berkeley have now found that copper is also very important for fat burning. The doctors published the results of the study in the journal "Nature Chemical Biology".
Copper helps convert fat into energy
Copper is essential for the breakdown of fat cells. The copper can then use these to generate energy, explains Professor Chris Chang from Berkeley Lab’s Chemical Sciences Division. Fat acts as a kind of regulator. The more copper there is in the body, the more fat is broken down. So it would be worthwhile to investigate whether a lack of this nutrient leads to obesity and obesity, the authors say. These factors are known to be related to some serious diseases, Professor Chang adds.
Western diets usually contain too little copper food
Copper is likely to play a role in burning fat. Professor Chang explains that the nutrient is abundant in foods such as oysters, mussels, leafy greens, mushrooms, seeds, nuts and beans. The average food requirement for copper in an adult is around 700 micrograms per day. Copper is not produced by our body, so we have to take it in through our food. However, most people's typical diet doesn't contain much green leafy vegetables, says Professor Chang. For example, most Asians eat more copper-rich foods than we Europeans. However, it must be borne in mind that too much copper together with other essential minerals can lead to imbalances, the authors warn.
Experiment on mice with Wilson's disease brings interesting insights into copper
The scientists found the copper-fat compound in a test with mice. These suffered from a genetic mutation that causes copper to accumulate in the liver. These experimental animals had larger fat deposits compared to normal mice. The disease is known as Wilson's disease or Wilson's disease. The disease can be fatal if left untreated, doctors say. Analysis of Wilson's disease mice showed that the abnormal accumulation of copper was accompanied by lower lipid levels in the liver, the authors say.
The researchers also found that white adipose tissue or white fat had less traces of copper in Wilson's disease mice. Compared to healthy control mice, the deposits of fat were correspondingly higher, the experts add. The test mice were then treated with isoproterenol, a beta-agonist known to induce lipolysis - the breakdown of fat in fatty acids. The mice with Wilson's disease showed significantly less fat loss activity compared to the normal healthy test mice, the authors explain.
Scientists use plasma mass spectrometry to measure copper content in fat
The results prompted the researchers to analyze the cell cultures to better understand the mechanism by which copper influences lipolysis. Berkeley Lab researchers used Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) to measure copper levels in adipose tissue. The scientists found that copper binds to phosphodiesterase 3 or PDE3. This then facilitates the breakdown of fat, explain the doctors.
There were already indications of the effects of copper in animal husbandry
The connection between copper and fat metabolism was not entirely surprising. The researchers report that there has actually been evidence of this connection before. However, these were in the area of animal husbandry. In the case of cattle, it was found earlier that the level of copper in feed affects how fat the meat of the animals was, explains Professor Chang. There has been a record of the effects on animal fat deposition in the agricultural literature. However, it did not become clear why these biochemical mechanisms were linked to copper and fat, the authors say.
Particularly high copper concentration found in the human brain
The concentration of copper in the human body is particularly high in our brains, the experts explain. The new study also found that copper helps brain cells communicate with each other. Copper acts as a brake when it comes time to stop neutral signals. Professor Chang's research team initially focused on the role of copper in neuronal communication. The scientists' work then expanded to include areas of fat metabolism and other biological pathways for studying metals, the scientists say. (as)