Are you Getting Enough Copper?

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Every nutrient has an important role in the body.  Even slightly low levels can cause major problems.  This post looks at copper and what it does to the body.

Copper is an important mineral for energy production, various enzymes, iron metabolism, producing connective tissue, gene expression, metabolism, and much more.  The standards for copper intake vary from different agencies around the world from 5-10 mg/day.

  • The Council for Responsible Nutrition ULS (upper limit for supplements) is 9 mg.
  • The US Institute of Medicine UL (upper level) is 10 mg.
  • The European Commission’s Scientific Community/European Food Safety Authority UL (upper level) is 5 mg.
  • The UK Expert Group on Vitamins and Minerals SUL (safe upper level) or GL (guidance level) is 10 mg (SUL).

Reference daily intakes (RDI’s), created for food labeling, are based on the RDAs and are used in the US and Canada.  They are estimated to meet the needs of 97-98% of the population.  

Don’t get bogged down.  Here’s the takeaway:  By all standards, we need at least 5 mg/day of copper.  All nutrients are important and even moderate deficiencies can cause problems.

Signs that you may be lacking adequate copper:

  • Anemia
  • High cholesterol
  • Issues with connective tissue
  • Bone loss or other bone defects
  • Trouble digesting fat
  • Get sick often/easily

The following are some factors that can change a person’s need for any given nutrient (including copper):

  • Medications
  • Heavy exercise
  • Certain health conditions. (For example, copper needs tend to go up in those with anemia, optic nerve issues, and those who consume a great deal of alcohol.)
  • Nutritional individuality
    • Men and woman usually have different needs (although this is less of a factor with copper)
    • Age/stage of life can alter needs (infant vs. adolescent vs. adult vs. elderly)
    • Activity level/exercise
    • Stress and anxiety levels

Whole food is always a foundation that should be established before supplementation is started. Nutritional deficiencies are less likely when you’re on a whole food plant-based diet, alongside a generally healthy balanced lifestyle.  If you need to supplement, Spirulina Manna as well as Premier Multi-Vitamin can be helpful.

Plants that contain copper:

  • Unsweetened chocolate (cacao)
  • Potatoes
  • Shitake mushrooms
  • Cashews
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Tofu
  • Chickpeas
  • Millet
  • Spirulina
  • Avocados
  • Figs
  • Spinach
  • Asparagus
  • Sesame seeds

If you have health challenges that you can’t seem to get to the bottom of, you may have a nutritional deficiency of copper or any of several other important nutrients.  Start by reducing stress, staying well hydrated and eating a whole food plant-based diet, supplementing as needed.  If you don’t feel better within a few weeks, let us help!  Call my clinic at 269-204-6525.


Reference list:

  1. Trumbo P, Yates AA, Schlicker S, Poos M. Dietary reference intakes: vitamin A, vitamin K, arsenic, boron, chromium, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, silicon, vanadium, and zinc. J Am Diet Assoc. 2001. doi:10.1016/S0002-8223(01)00078-5
  2. Hathcock J. Vitamin and Mineral Safety. Vitam Miner Saf. 2013.
  3. Myint ZW, Oo TH, Thein KZ, Tun AM, Saeed H. Copper deficiency anemia: review article. Ann Hematol. 2018. doi:10.1007/s00277-018-3407-5
  4. Shibazaki S, Uchiyama S, Tsuda K, Taniuchi N. Copper deficiency caused by excessive alcohol consumption. BMJ Case Rep. 2017. doi:10.1136/bcr-2017-220921
  5. National Institutes of Health. Copper — Health Professional Fact Sheet. Nih.
  6. Granell J. Zinc and copper changes in serum and urine after aerobic endurance and muscular strength exercise. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2014.
  7. Russo AJ. Decreased Zinc and Increased Copper in Individuals with Anxiety. Nutr Metab Insights. 2011. doi:10.4137/nmi.s6349
  8. Burton-Freeman BM, Sesso HD. Whole food versus supplement: Comparing the clinical evidence of tomato intake and lycopene supplementation on cardiovascular risk factors. Adv Nutr. 2014. doi:10.3945/an.114.005231