Copper Supplement Overview

Copper is one of many minerals that is essential to human health. But how much copper, and in what form? We’ll examine its role in human health, symptoms and causes of deficiency and toxicity, sources, and dosage recommendations in this overview of copper. Unlike some vitamins and minerals, copper is one that I would hesitate recommending as a daily supplement. Read on to learn more.

Copper in Human Health:

Like many minerals, copper facilitates metabolic and enzymatic activities

It plays a role in the formation of red blood cells and hemoglobin, which are essential components of oxygen transport throughout the body. Because it works in conjunction with iron, copper is important for people who are anemic, as a copper deficiency may lead to an iron deficiency

Copper is an important constituent in many enzymes and their activities, including ones responsible for collagen and keratin formation and hormone responses

Having an important role in a healthy immune response, copper is a useful component to the healing process

Copper Deficiency:

As previously stated, a copper deficiency can be a serious issue for those who have symptoms of anemia, as copper and iron work synergistically with each other. A deficiency in one most likely means a deficiency in the other

As so little copper is required (less than 1mg/day), a deficiency is often rare

In some cases, however, a copper deficiency is a real problem. This includes: infants that are suffering or recovering from an illness or diarrhea, people with severe digestive disorders like Crohn’s, or people with an excessive amount of zinc in their system

In very rare cases, a genetic disorder called “Menkes Syndrome” can affect the levels of copper in a person’s body, leading to fatigue, anemia, bone disorders, hair and skin problems

Copper Toxicity:

Because very little copper is required on a daily basis, and because it is easily acquired through food and other sources, copper toxicity is more likely than copper deficiency

Symptoms of an excess of copper are far worse than those of a deficiency. They include, but are not limited to: vomiting, headache, kidney, heart and liver problems.

Additionally, an excess of copper has been linked to several mental issues, including mood swings, depression, paranoia, and criminalistic thoughts or behaviors. Several studies have found a link  between copper and zinc levels in men with criminalistic behaviors. They suggest a deficiency in zinc and excess in copper in those with a criminal background vs those without

Because zinc is responsible for regulating copper levels, a zinc deficiency could lead to elevated copper levels. As a result, having adequate zinc in the proper form is essential not only for overall health, but for healthy copper levels

Some studies even suggest that having lower copper levels might even reduce the occurrence of blood vessels to cancerous tumors, whereas an excess of copper may lead to increased tumor growth

Copper toxicity can be a result of acquiring it from the raw material (copper bracelets, copper IUD, copper cookware, etc.), or from supplementing with copper over a long period of time, especially if one’s diet is rich in copper-containing foods

Forms and Sources of Copper:

Copper can be absorbed from the raw material, as stated above. These materials include copper cookware, copper jewelry, copper pipes and copper IUDs

Food sources that are rich in copper include oysters (5.7mg/100g), kale (1.5mg/100g), organ meats/liver, nuts and legumes, chocolate, coffee, oats, mushrooms, and wheat germ

Recommended Dosage:

For adults, the daily recommended dose is 900mcg. Taking more than 1mg of copper over a long period of time may lead to problems, including toxicity. Only a blood test will determine if you are deficient in copper. If you are copper deficient, supplement with 1-2mg/day for no more than 2 weeks

If your diet is rich in the foods above, or if you have copper pipes, dishware, or a copper IUD, avoid taking a copper supplement. If you fear that you may have an excess of copper in your system, supplement with 10-20mg elemental zinc/day to keep the levels regulated

In most cases, copper is easily acquired though one’s diet, and best paired with foods rich in iron and potassium

Pay attention to any extreme symptoms you may have and when in doubt, get a blood test done to assess your copper levels