- Up to one-fourth of adults aren’t getting adequate levels of copper in their diet. Copper is found in all body tissues and used by the mitochondria — so it’s essential for human wellness.
- If you suspect copper deficiency, you can take a blood test, urine test, or have a hair sample evaluated.
- Between copper-rich foods and supplements, you can rescue your daily copper intake and increase your energy, immune system function, and brain health.
Found in all body tissues, copper is often overlooked when building a wellness plan. It’s true, you should be able to get enough copper through a healthy diet. But since copper cannot be made in the human body, it’s important to be aware of this trace mineral, deficiency risks, and how optimal copper levels can boost our energy, brain power, and immune system function.
Let’s dive into the benefits of copper, symptoms of deficiency, and how you can ensure you’re getting the most out of copper supplementation.
Table of Contents:
- Is Copper Good for You? The Role of Copper in the Body
- Copper Benefits
- Copper Deficiency Signs and Symptoms
- The Zinc and Copper Balance
- What Happens When You Have Too Much Copper?
- How to Check Your Copper Levels
- Copper and Cellular Health
- What Food Is High in Copper?
- Supplementing with Copper
- The Bottom Line on Copper
Is Copper Good for You? The Role of Copper in the Body
Copper is a do-it-all mineral. It contributes to brain, skin, heart, and immune system health — to name just a few copper benefits. Oh, and as long as you have healthy red blood cells, you can thank a powerful copper and iron duo!
Copper is found in every tissue in the human body, so you can imagine just how much of a role it plays in your daily living.
Consumed in healthy doses, copper is good for you — and will do the most to ensure your body functions optimally. There are only a few instances where copper can be problematic — which we’ll go over in this article.
Copper may be a trace mineral, but it has a big impact. It’s always working behind the scenes to ensure your body stays in optimal condition. Healthy levels of copper may contribute to:
- Bone strength and density*
- Immune system health*
- Heart health*
- Brain health*
- Hair and skin pigmentation*
- Cellular health* (specifically in nerve cells!)
- Red blood cell count*
- Preventing free radical damage*
Copper deficiency has been associated with osteoporosis, arthritis, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and thyroid issues. This isn’t to scare you, just a friendly reminder to make sure your essential minerals for the body (including copper) are staying level!
Copper Deficiency Signs and Symptoms
Copper deficiency is becoming more common as Western food and soil qualities depreciate. One study suggests that a fourth of adults consume less than the recommended daily intake of copper. A chronic illness, chronic stress, or gut dysbiosis may put you even more at risk for mineral depletion or malabsorption.
With a healthy diet, you’re likely to get your daily intake of copper, but a copper supplement can help to increase energy, comfort, and brain function in people who struggle to keep their levels balanced.
Symptoms of copper deficiency include:
- Weakness and exhaustion
- Low body temperature
- Hair or skin pigment abnormalities (like early gray hairs or pale skin)
- Brittle bones
- Brain fog
- Low white blood cell counts
- Thyroid problems
In some cases, the common diagnosis of iron deficiency anemia is actually a case of copper deficiency anemia, since both work to support healthy red blood cells. However, a conventional medical doctor is unlikely to look for this root cause in cases of anemia. Low vitamin A status will also affect iron usage in the body. Something to keep in mind if you have been diagnosed or are susceptible to developing this condition.
The Zinc and Copper Balance
If you’re consuming a regular zinc supplement, you could be more at risk for copper deficiency. This is because zinc and copper are absorbed the same way — and compete for space in the body.
You should consume more zinc than copper on a day-to-day basis. But be careful with high-dosage zinc supplements, as they can overwhelm the body and cause copper deficiency in the long term.
BodyBio Tip: Zinc copper balance is a difficult game. Testing your mineral levels at home is easy and can ensure you get the right dosage. Check out our mineral testing guide for more information and helpful tips.
What Happens When You Have Too Much Copper?
Like any mineral, too much copper can cause problems. Copper toxicity is rare, but risk factors include use of a copper IUD, copper pipes in your home, overuse of supplements, and contaminated drinking water.
Worried about copper toxicity? Here are symptoms to watch out for:
- A metallic taste
- Abdominal pain
Copper toxicity isn’t common, but if you do have these symptoms combined with one or more risk factors, make sure to get checked out by a medical professional.
How to Check Your Copper Levels
If you suspect high or low levels of copper, you should get tested. There are a number of ways to easily check your copper levels, including a urine test and a blood test (the two most common recommendations).
However, our personal favorite is hair mineral analysis. This method can be done from home and provides a broad view of your copper levels as well as other essential minerals and heavy metal status. The hair that’s tested can evaluate your copper levels over a period of several months (however long it took that hair to grow), giving you a longer term perspective than a simple blood test.
Copper and Cellular Health
How do you keep cells healthy? Start with minerals like copper. The mitochondria (energy factories) in your cells gather copper to create cuproenzymes. Essentially, these enzymes help with metabolic reprogramming and can prevent a number of common chronic diseases. Want to know more? This study explores how copper can be harnessed for regenerative medicine.
What Food Is High In Copper?
If you’re low on copper, you don’t automatically have to turn to supplementing with copper. There are a lot of fantastic copper-rich foods that can help you feel like yourself again.
- Organ meats. These are almost always a recommendation for mineral deficiencies. These days, you can go to the grocery store and find ground beef mixed with an organ meat blend so that the taste is hardly noticeable. If you don’t like the idea of consuming animal liver or kidneys, you can get them in whole food supplements.
- Seafood. Fish and shellfish are particularly good sources of copper. Just look for organic wild-caught seafood with low mercury content.
- Nuts and seeds. Not only are they high in protein and fiber, nuts and seeds are a great source of copper. Enjoy them in a salad or as a hiking snack.
- Dark chocolate. While chocolate gets a bad reputation for its sugar content, it’s actually a great snack for boosting copper and magnesium levels. You can also consume it as raw cacao with or without sweetener for greater nutritional and antioxidant benefits.
Supplementing with Copper
A copper supplement is a great option if you’re worried about malabsorption or need to boost your body’s mineral content. Since supplements aren’t well monitored by the FDA, we recommend finding a trustworthy supplement company with proven absorption results.
About 0.5 to 2.5 milligrams of copper is recommended when supplementing, depending on your mineral status. You can always start out slow and increase your dose as needed.
The Bottom Line on Copper
If you’re experiencing copper deficiency, so many of your regular bodily functions are at risk. Finding and replacing lost minerals is an important part of getting healthy and feeling your best — and increasing copper levels may be a key piece of the puzzle.
Our copper supplement is highly rated and optimized for best absorption. A few drops in your morning water or juice can help your symptoms turn around in no time.
Try Supplementing with Liquid Copper
Eife, R., Weiss, M., Barros, V., Sigmund, B., Goriup, U., Komb, D., Wolf, W., Kittel, J., Schramel, P., & Reiter, K. (1999). Chronic poisoning by copper in tap water: I. Copper intoxications with predominantly gastointestinal symptoms. European journal of medical research, 4(6), 219–223.
Ruiz, L. M., Libedinsky, A., & Elorza, A. A. (2021). Role of Copper on Mitochondrial Function and Metabolism. Frontiers in molecular biosciences, 8, 711227. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmolb.2021.711227
Brewer G. J. (2012). Copper excess, zinc deficiency, and cognition loss in Alzheimer's disease. BioFactors (Oxford, England), 38(2), 107–113. https://doi.org/10.1002/biof.1005
Klevay L. M. (2011). Is the Western diet adequate in copper?. Journal of trace elements in medicine and biology : organ of the Society for Minerals and Trace Elements (GMS), 25(4), 204–212. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jtemb.2011.08.146