British Journal of Nutrition

Research Article

Adaptive responses in men fed low- and high-copper diets

Linda J. Harveya1 c1, Gosia Majsak-Newmana1, Jack R. Daintya1, D. John Lewisa2, Nicola J. Langforda2, Helen M. Crewsa2 and Susan J. Fairweather-Taita1

a1 Nutrition and Consumer Science Division, Institute of Food Research, Norwich Research Park, Colney, Norwich NR4 7UA, UK

a2 Central Science Laboratory, Sand Hutton, York YO41 1LZ, UK


The study of Cu metabolism is hampered by a lack of sensitive and specific biomarkers of status and suitable isotopic labels, but limited information suggests that Cu homeostasis is maintained through changes in absorption and endogenous loss. The aim of the present study was to employ stable-isotope techniques to measure Cu absorption and endogenous losses in adult men adapted to low, moderate and high Cu-supplemented diets. Twelve healthy men, aged 20–59 years, were given diets containing 0·7, 1·6 and 6·0 mg Cu/d for 8 weeks, with at least 4 weeks intervening washout periods. After 6 weeks adaptation, apparent and true absorption of Cu were determined by measuring luminal loss and endogenous excretion of Cu following oral administration of 3 mg highly enriched 65Cu stable-isotope label. Apparent and true absorption (41 and 48% respectively) on the low-Cu diet were not significantly different from the high-Cu diet (45 and 48% respectively). Endogenous losses were significantly reduced on the low- (0·45mg/d; P<0·001) and medium- (0·81 mg/d; P=0·001) compared with the high-Cu diet (2·46mg/d). No biochemical changes resulting from the dietary intervention were observed. Cu homeostasis was maintained over a wide range of intake and more rapidly at the lower intake, mainly through changes in endogenous excretion.

(Received March 11 2002)

(Revised February 11 2003)

(Accepted March 03 2003)


c1 *Corresponding author: Dr Linda Harvey, fax +44 1603 507723, email