All About Minerals

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Why copper is good for you

Copper is required in the formation of haemoglobin, red blood cells and for healthy bones. It helps with the formation of elastin as well as collagen - making it necessary for wound healing. Copper works closely with iron for these functions.

Copper is a vital component of a number of essential enzymes. It is essential for energy production, connective tissue formation, iron metabolism, melanin formation and it also has an antioxidant function.

Copper is also necessary for the manufacture of the neurotransmitter noradrenaline as well as for the pigmentation of hair.


Important copper facts


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Groups at risk of copper deficiency

Severe copper deficiency is relatively uncommon, yet approximately 25% of the population may be at risk of copper deficiency. The following groups are at most risk of deficiency:

People in these group at risk of deficiency should talk to a medical professional about copper supplements BEFORE taking them.


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Symptoms of copper deficiency

Copper can be stored in the body, so deficiency is rare. If there is copper deficiency, there will almost always be an iron deficiency too, which can lead to anaemia as well as increase the likelihood for infections, osteoporosis, thinning of bones, thyroid gland dysfunction, heart disease as well as nervous system problems.


One of the most common clinical signs of copper deficiency is an anemia that is unresponsive to iron therapy but corrected by copper supplementation.

A lack of copper may lead to increased blood fat (triglyceride) levels.


Copper and health

People who wish to take a copper supplement should talk to a medical professional BEFORE taking it.



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Copper in food

FOOD AMOUNT copper (mcg)
Liver (beef), cooked 28g 1,265
Oysters, cooked 1 medium 670
Crab meat, cooked 85g 624
Clams, cooked 85g 585
Cashews 28g 529
Sunflower seeds 28g 519
Lentils, cooked 1 cup 497
Hazelnuts 28g 469
Mushrooms, raw, sliced 1 cup 344
Almonds 28g 332
Peanut butter (chunky) 2 Tbsp 165
Shredded wheat cereal (Weetbix) 2 biscuits 143
Chocolate (semisweet) 28g 198
Hot cocoa mix 28g 169


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Copper recommended daily intake (RDI)

RDA lifestage age amount
  INFANTS 0-6mths
200mcg (0.2mg)
220mcg (0.22mg)
  CHILDREN 1-3yrs
340mcg (0.34mg)
440mcg (0.44mg)
  CHILDREN 9-13yrs
700mcg (0.7mg)
890mcg (0.89mg)
  ADULTS 19-50yrs 900mcg (0.9mg)
  SENIORS 51+yrs
900mcg (0.9mg)
  PREGNANT all ages 1000mcg (1.0 mg)
  LACTATING all ages 1300mcg (1.3mg)
TOLERABLE UPPER LIMIT lifestage age amounT
  INFANTS 0-12mths n/a*
  CHILDREN 1-3yrs
1000cg (1.0mg)
3000mcg (3.0mg)
  CHILDREN 9-13yrs
5000mcg (5.0mg)
8000mcg (8.0mg)
  ADULTS 19-50yrs 10000mcg (10.0mg)
  SENIORS 51+yrs
10000mcg (10.0mg)
  PREGNANT <18yrs
8000mcg (8.0mg)
10000mcg (10.0mg)
  LACTATING <18yrs
8000mcg (8.0mg)
10000mcg (10.0mg)
Toxic Levels >40000mcg (or >40mg)

The tolerable upper limits should only be taken for short periods and only under medical supervision.

* The tolerable upper limit for copper for infants aged 0-12 months has not yet been determined due to a lack of data about the adverse effects in this age group. The only source of copper intake should be from food (breast milk and/or baby formula).


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Copper works best with


Overdosage, toxicity and cautions for copper

Acute toxicity (>250mg)fever, high blood pressure, tachycardia (rapid heart beat), coma, death.

Chronic toxicity – diarrhoea, dizziness, depression, fatigue, green stools, irritability, joint and muscle pain, nausea, nervousness, psychosis, bloating of the hands and feet, light sensitivity, premature ageing, wrinkling of the skin, vomiting.

Wilson's Disease (this is a genetic disorder resulting in copper overload) - inability to maintain copper status causing an accumulation in the brain and liver (eg acute hepatitis which may become chronic), drooling, open mouthedness, psychosis, headaches, miscarriage.


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Last reviewed: 1 January 2010 || Last updated: 1 January 2010




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NOTE: Mega doses of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, or other supplements cannot cure illnesses and in fact can be very dangerous and produce toxic side effects and interfere with medicine you are taking. Always ensure you consult your doctor before taking any type of nutrient supplement.
Disclaimer: This guide is not intended to be used for diagnostic or prescriptive purposes. For any treatment or diagnosis of illness, please see your doctor.