Copper is key in burning fat
Berkeley scientist says results could provide new target for obesity
A new study is further burnishing copper's reputation as an essential
nutrient for human physiology. A research team led by a scientist at the
Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley
Lab) and at the University of California, Berkeley, has found that
copper plays a key role in metabolising fat.
prized as a malleable, conductive metal used in cookware, electronics,
jewelry and plumbing, copper has been gaining increasing attention over
the past decade for its role in certain biological functions. It has
been known that copper is needed to form red blood cells, absorb iron,
develop connective tissue and support the immune system.
The new findings, to appear in the July print issue of Nature
Chemical Biology but published online today, establishes for the first
time copper's role in fat metabolism.
The team of researchers was led by Chris Chang, a faculty scientist
at Berkeley Lab's Chemical Sciences Division, a UC Berkeley professor of
chemistry and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. Co-lead
authors of the study are Lakshmi Krishnamoorthy and Joseph Cotruvo Jr,
both UC Berkeley postdoctoral researchers in chemistry with affiliations
at Berkeley Lab.
"We find that copper is essential for breaking down fat cells so that
they can be used for energy," said 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."
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, mushrooms, seeds, nuts and
According to the 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 percent of the U.S. population gets enough copper daily.
"Copper is not something the body can make, so we need to get it
through our diet," said Chang. "The typical American diet, however,
doesn't include many green leafy vegetables. Asian diets, for example,
have more foods rich in copper."