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Erythrocyte Superoxide Dismutase Activity

Erythrocyte superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity, though not as specific as serum copper or ceruloplasmin concentration, may be a reliable indicator of copper status, and some suggest it is more sensitive (Milne, 1998; Uauy et al., 1985). It does not increase with the conditions that increase serum copper and ceruloplasmin concentrations. However, it can increase in situations that produce oxidative stress, and SOD activity is high in some conditions, including alcoholism and Down’s syndrome. Methods of analysis are not standardized, and normal ranges for SOD activity are not available. Although SOD activity was measured in fewer studies than were the two indicators above, sufficient data are available to include it as an indicator of change in copper status when it is measured in controlled studies at different levels of dietary copper intake.

Platelet Copper Concentration and Cytochrome c Oxidase Activity

Two studies in women suggest that both platelet copper concentration and platelet cytochrome c oxidase activity may respond more rapidly to low dietary copper than the indicators discussed above. In one study both of these indicators declined when copper intake was 570 μg/day (Milne and Nielsen, 1996). Platelet copper concentration increased after repletion, but platelet cytochrome c oxidase activity did not. In another study, both platelet copper concentration and platelet cytochrome c oxidase activity increased after supplementation of a diet containing 670 μg/day of copper, but baseline measurements were not made, so it is not known whether these parameters declined (Milne et al., 1988). Moreover, an intervening vitamin C supplementation period added another variable to the data interpretation. The fact that serum copper and ceruloplasmin concentrations and SOD activity were not affected at this level of dietary copper suggests the requirement for maintaining serum copper and ceruloplasmin concentration had been met. Therefore, the above research suggests that platelet copper concentration and platelet cytochrome c oxidase activity, when measured in controlled studies, may be more sensitive to changes in copper dietary intake.

Urinary Copper

Urinary copper excretion is extremely low and does not contribute significantly to copper retention, but it has been found to decline when diets are low enough in copper that other indexes of



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