Copper, an essential mineral, is found in certain foods naturally and is used as a dietary supplement. It is present in all body tissues and plays a part in producing red blood cells and in holding nerve cells and the immune system intact.

A wide range of plant and animal foods include copper, and the normal human diet contains around 1.400 mcg/day for men and 1.100 mcg/day for women who are mainly ingested into the upper small intestine. Nearly two-thirds of copper in the body is found in the skin and skeleton.


Health Benefits of Copper


About every cell in the body requires copper and, along with iron and zinc, copper is one of the three important minerals for good health. Copper is also active in cholesterol absorption, proper immune system activity, and baby growth and development in the womb. Very obviously, our hearts, digestive systems, and respiratory systems couldn’t naturally function without copper.

Health benefits of copper include:

  • Wound healing
  • Proper structure and role of the blood cells in circulation
  • Reduce the risk of osteoporosis
  • Healthy skin and connective tissue preservation
  • Brain production during fetal and postnatal growth, and life-long preservation of brain protection including successful antioxidant defense
  • Developing new blood vessels
  • Maintaining the main fundamental elements of our skin, collagen, and elastin
  • Prevent or delay arthritis
  • Reduce free radical development
  • Sufficient copper in the diet may help prevent cardiovascular disease.


Daily Recommended Intake

According to the World Health Organization, 1–3 milligrams of copper a day are required to avoid any deficiency symptoms. Specific health and wellness associations around the world have set dietary reference standards, stressing the role of copper as part of a healthy diet.

According to National Institutes of Health Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for copper :

Birth to 6 months*200 mcg200 mcg
7–12 months*200 mcg200 mcg
1–3 years340 mcg340 mcg
4–8 years440 mcg440 mcg
9–13 years700 mcg700 mcg
14–18 years890 mcg890 mcg1,000 mcg1,000 mcg
19+ years900 mcg900 mcg1,300 mcg1,300 mcg

*Adequate Intake

For adults aged 19 and over the upper limit is 10,000 mcg, or 10 milligrams (mg) a day. It may be harmful to take intake beyond that.


Sources of Copper

Copper comes from a large variety of fresh and refined foods.

Rich sources of copper include :

  • Oyster – Oysters are a strong copper supply, supplying 7.6 mg per 3.5 ounces (100 grams)—or 844% of the RDA. This low-calorie shellfish also contains a high concentration of calcium, selenium, and vitamin B12.
  • Nuts and Seeds – Almonds, cashews, and sesame seeds, in particular, are strong sources of copper.1 ounce (28 grams) of almonds or cashews have 33 percent and 67 percent of the RDA respectively. A sesame seed tablespoon (9 grams) contains 44 percent of RDA.
  • Liver – Liver is a very nourishing meal. One slice of calf liver (67 grams) gives you 10.3 mg of copper — a whopping 1.144 percent of RDA.
  • Mushroom – Shiitake mushrooms (15 grams) contain 44 calories, 2 grams of fiber, and a variety of nutrients including selenium, manganese, zinc, folate, and B1, B5, B6, and D vitamins. That volume also comprises 89 percent of the copper RDA.
  • Spirulina – Spirulina is super nutritious. A single teaspoon (7 grams) supplies copper with 44 percent of the RDA.
  • Lobster – Lobsters are robust, large shellfish that live on the seabed. It is a very strong supply of copper. A lobster serving of 3 ounces (85 grams) produces a whopping 178 percent RDA.
  • Dark Chocolate – Dark chocolate contains vitamins, antioxidants, and various nutrients in it. A dark chocolate bar weighing 3.5 ounces (100 grams) contains 200 percent of the RDA for copper.
  • Leafy Green – Many leafy greens have large quantities of copper in them. Leafy greens such as Swiss chard and spinach are extremely nutritious additions to your diet which raise copper. Cooked Swiss chard supplies copper in a single cup (173 grams) with 33 percent of the RDA.  A cup (180 grams) of cooked spinach also contains 33% of the RDA.

Some other sources of copper include black paper, yeast, potato, and whole grains. Eating a well-balanced diet will allow you to satisfy your daily copper requirements.


Deficiency of Copper

Failure to consume enough copper can ultimately result in deficiency, which can be harmful. Many causes of copper deficiency include celiac disease, the surgery that affects the digestive tract, and absorbs too much zinc, as zinc competes with copper for absorption.


Some important sign and symptoms of copper are :

  • Weak bones
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Frequent illness
  • Hard to walk properly
  • Vision loss
  • Pale hair and grey hair

Copper is a popular micronutrient. Deficiency is causing major health problems but it is very rare. Genetic defects in the transport proteins induce deficiency conditions more frequently than a low-copper diet. There’s copper available so it can’t get into cells.


Overdose and Toxicity of Copper


Too much copper can cause toxicity to the copper, which is a form of metal poisoning. Acute copper poisoning is an uncommon occurrence, generally related to the unintended ingestion of copper nitrate or copper sulfate solutions, which should be kept out of easy reach at home.

Toxicity of copper can cause :

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Stomach pain
  • Blood in vomiting
  • Jaundice
  • Diarrhea
  • Kayser-Fleischer rings
  • Kidney failure
  • Brain damage
  • Thyroid issue
  • Liver failure

Causes of Copper toxicity may include :

  • Too much copper in drinking water
  • Cooking in copper pots
  • Exposure of contaminants of the high copper content
  • Too much supplementation

The Tolerable Upper Limit (ULs) for the different age group is :

  • 1-3 years – 1000 mcg
  • 4-8 years – 3000 mcg
  • 9-13 years – 5000 mcg
  • 13-18 years – 8000 mcg
  • Above 18 years – 10000 mcg

In infants, the only sources of copper should be breast milk, water, and food.