Copper is available in many foods including nuts, legumes, and even chocolate, so it’s unlikely a person would ever be copper-deficient. But it does happen sometimes, and it tends to be more common in certain groups of people such as pregnant women and obese individuals. Researchers investigating the effects of copper deficiency discovered that rats on copper-free diets developed insulin resistance and fat retention. Furthermore, fat cells (pictured), if deprived of copper, get even fatter. It turns out, these cells contain a copper-dependent enzyme that regulates fuel uptake and, when this enzyme stops working, the cells switch from sugar to fat consumption. Indeed, copper-deprived cells grew more than twice their normal size because of increased fat uptake. Simply eating copper wont make you thin, of course, but studying how this trace element affects fat metabolism may one day lead to strategies for tackling obesity and metabolic disorders.
Written by Ruth Williams
- Image by Haojun Yang, Johns Hopkins University
- Department of Physiology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA
- Image copyright held by the original authors
- Research published in PLOS Biology, September 2018