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copper Copper 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 enzymes in many crucial reactions in the body.


Copper’s functions include:

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, 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:

Major Food Sources

Foods high in copper include:

Health Implications

If you have a condition that impairs your body’s ability to absorb, use, and excrete copper, your doctor may recommend changing your dietary intake of copper. For example, Wilson’s disease is a genetic condition in which the body cannot excrete copper resulting in increased copper levels in the body. Another genetic disease, Menkes syndrome, prevents copper absorption in the intestine and produces symptoms of copper deficiency.
Taking certain medications or supplements may also affect your copper levels. Zinc supplements, for instance, can interfere with how your body absorbs copper. If you are concerned about how much copper you are getting in your diet, talk to your doctor.


Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

US Department of Agriculture


Dietitians of Canada

Health Canada


Copper. Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University website. Available at: Updated December 2013. Accessed October 8, 2014.

Copper deficiency. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated June 20, 2014. Accessed October 8, 2014.

Dietary reference intakes: elements. Institute of Medicine website. Available at: Accessed October 8, 2014.

Obikoya G. The benefits of zinc. The Vitamins & Nutrition Center website. Available at: Accessed October 8, 2014.

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