• Copper

    copperCopper is a trace mineral that is essential for human health. It works with enzymes, which are proteins that aid in the biochemical reactions of every cell. Copper assists these many of these enzymes in crucial reactions in the body.


    Copper’s functions include:
    • Assisting in energy production
    • Protecting cells from free radical damage
    • Helping lysyl oxidase, an enzyme that strengthens connective tissue
    • Assisting the conversion of the brain neurotransmitter dopamine to norepinephrine
    • Helping your body make hemoglobin, which is needed to carry oxygen to red blood cells
    • Keeping the immune system, bones, blood vessels, and nerves healthy
    • Helping in the formation of the pigment melanin

    Recommended Intake

    Age Group Recommended Dietary Allowance/Adequate Intake
    Upper Limit
    0-6 months 200 Not determinable
    7-12 months 220 Not determinable
    1-3 years 340 1,000
    4-8 years 440 3,000
    9-13 years 700 5,000
    14-18 years 890 8,000
    19 years and older 900 10,000
    18 years and younger
    1,000 8,000
    over 18 years
    1,000 10,000
    18 years and younger
    1,300 8,000
    over 18 years
    1,300 10,000
    *Adequate intakes

    Copper Deficiency

    Many studies show that Americans consume less than adequate amounts of dietary copper. However, copper deficiency in adults is rare. A deficiency may occur, though, due to certain genetic problems, long-term shortages of dietary copper, or excessive intakes of zinc and iron. In addition, premature infants and infants suffering from malnutrition may have deficiencies of copper. People who have had gastric surgery or have conditions that affect how their bodies absorb nutrients are also at risk for copper deficiency.
    Symptoms of copper deficiency include anemia, bone loss, a decrease in certain white blood cells, loss of hair color, neurologic problems, and pale skin.
    If you are unable to meet your copper needs through dietary sources, copper supplements may be necessary. Copper supplements are usually taken by mouth, but in some cases are given by injection. Your doctor should determine if you need such supplementation.

    Copper Toxicity

    Cases of toxicity from copper are rare.
    Excess copper intake may lead to liver and kidney damage. Symptoms of copper toxicity may include:
    • Abdominal pain
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Loss of consciousness
    • Signs of liver damage like yellow eyes or skin

    Major Food Sources

    Foods high in copper include:
    • Beef liver
    • Shellfish
    • Cashews
    • Sunflower seeds
    • Almonds
    • Hazelnuts
    • Lentils
    • Chocolate

    Health Implications

    There are a number of health conditions and treatments that affect how your body absorbs, uses, or excretes copper. The most common examples include:
    • Wilson’s disease—A genetic condition which include the inability of the body to excrete copper. This lead to a dangerous build-up of copper in the body.
    • Menkes syndrome—A genetic condition that prevents proper copper absorption. It results in an accumulation of copper is some tissues, but not in others. This can lead to blood disorders or nerve problems.
    • Medications or supplements—For example, high levels of zinc interfere with copper absorption, creating a deficiency.
    If you are concerned about how much copper you are getting in your diet, talk to your doctor before supplementing.


    Department of Agriculture http://www.usda.gov

    Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics http://www.eatright.org


    Dietitians of Canada http://www.dietitians.ca

    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca


    Copper. Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University website. Available at: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/copper. Updated January 2014. Accessed June 30, 2016.

    Copper deficiency. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113792/Copper-deficiency. Updated June 20, 2014. Accessed June 30, 2016.

    Dietary reference intakes: elements. Institute of Medicine website. Available at: http://www.nationalacademies.org/hmd/Global/News%20Announcements/~/media/48FAAA2FD9E74D95BBDA2236E7387B49.ashx. Accessed June 30, 2016.

    Obikoya G. The benefits of zinc. The Vitamins & Nutrition Center website. Available at: http://www.vitamins-nutrition.org/vitamins/zinc.html. Accessed June 30, 2016.

    Zinc. Office of Dietary Supplements website. Available at: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional. Updated February 11, 2016. Accessed June 30, 2016.

    Revision Information

  • LiveWell personal health survey

    How healthy are you really? Find out – free.Learn more

    It's time to stop guessing. If you want to make some changes but just aren't sure how, the free personal health survey from LiveWell is a great place to start.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease and prevent heart attacks. HeartSHAPE® is a painless, non-invasive test that checks pictures of your heart for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.