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Copper is key in burning fat

Copper is key in burning fat

Copper may be the key to combating obesity, new research claims.

Long prized as a malleable, conductive metal, copper has gained an increased amount of attention in the medical world for its role in certain biological functions.

And though it has been known that copper is needed to form red blood cells, absorb iron, develop connective tissue and support the immune system, a new study has established for the first time copper's role in fat metabolism. Scientists at University of California, Berkeley, have conducted an investigation into copper and now believe it is an essential nutrient for human physiology.

"We find that copper is essential for breaking down fat cells so that they can be used for energy," said research leader Professor Chris Chang. "It acts as a regulator. The more copper there is, the more the fat is broken down. We think it would be worthwhile to study whether a deficiency in this nutrient could be linked to obesity and obesity-related diseases."

Professor Chang said that copper could potentially play a role in restoring a natural way to burn fat. The nutrient is plentiful in foods such as oysters and other shellfish, leafy greens like kale, mushrooms, seeds, nuts and beans. According to the U.S. Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine, an adult's estimated average dietary requirement for copper is about 700 micrograms per day. The Food and Nutrition Board also found that only 25 per cent of the American population gets enough copper daily.

"Copper is not something the body can make, so we need to get it through our diet," he explained. "The typical American diet, however, doesn't include many green leafy vegetables. Asian diets, for example, have more foods rich in copper."

However, Professor Chang cautioned against ingesting copper supplements as a result of the study, because too much can lead to imbalances with other essential minerals, including zinc.

The researchers made the copper-fat link using mice with a genetic mutation that causes the accumulation of copper in the liver.

The study results were first published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology.

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