Everything You Need to Know About Copper

Oct 14, 2022 | BY First & Foremost Nutrition Team

Everything You Need to Know About Copper

Copper is a trace mineral, meaning very little is needed in the diet for the body to function properly; however, it is an essential nutrient and must be obtained from the diet. Copper is absorbed in the stomach and primarily duodenum & ileum (small intestines). It works as a catalyst in many biological processes, including energy production, iron metabolism, red blood cell production, neuropeptide activation, connective tissue synthesis, and neurotransmitter synthesis. It's also involved in gene expression, brain development and immunity. [1]

Here, we explain everything you need to know about copper.

What is the recommended daily allowance for copper?

Experts at the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine developed the intake recommendations for copper as Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs), which as the average daily level of intake sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all (97-98%) healthy individuals. 


Recommended Dietary Allowance for Copper [1].

Age

Male

Female

Pregnant

Lactating

14-18 years

890 mcg/ day

890 mcg/ day

1,000 mcg/ day

1,000 mcg/ day

19+ years

900 mcg/ day

900 mcg/ day

1,300 mcg/ day

1,300 mcg/ day


Western diets tend to be low in copper, so First & Foremost provides your full RDA.


What is the best way to get copper?

Copper is found in a variety of foods, but the amount of copper varies widely due to the food's origin and the condition the food was produced, handled, and prepared for consumption. The richest dietary sources of copper include meats, especially organ meats, and shellfish, especially oysters and lobster. Plant foods rich in copper include nuts (cashews), seeds, legumes, and dried fruits. [2]


The most common form of copper used in fortified food products and supplements is copper sulfate and cupric oxide; however, cupric oxide use is discouraged because the copper has been shown to be less bioavailable in the gastrointestinal tract in animals. [3] 


To date, no studies have compared the bioavailability of copper across the different forms available [4]. However, copper gluconate and copper bisglycinate may provide optimal absorption and better bioavailability because of the role of chelation [2]. As such, First & Foremost includes copper gluconate and follows the science for potential optimization in the future.


How does copper react with other nutrients?

Ligands and chelators, like the amino acids histidine and cysteine, facilitate and enhance copper absorption. Organic acids found in foods — citric, gluconic, lactic, acetic, and malic acids — also bind to copper and improve absorption. [2]


High zinc intake can inhibit copper absorption, and in some cases cause copper deficiency. 

Copper absorption can be inhibited by phytic acids, which are found mainly in plant foods (cereals, legumes, etc). Molybdenum ingested as tetrathiomolybdate inhibits copper utilization within the body. For this reason, First & Foremost uses a chelated form of molybdenum to avoid this conflict. [2] 


The body needs copper to help it process iron; copper also works with iron to form red blood cells. 


Copper’s interactions with medicines


The National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements reports copper to have no known clinically relevant interactions with medications. Although, consult your primary care provider if you are taking any medications. 


What happens when you’re deficient in copper?

Copper deficiency is uncommon in humans, and if you are in good health, you are unlikely to have low levels of copper. A few conditions that may lead to copper deficiency include celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, Menkes syndrome, and Crohn’s disease. People taking high doses of zinc supplements can also cause a copper deficiency, because zinc can interfere with copper absorption, as previously mentions. Symptoms of copper deficiency include: 

  • Tremors
  • Tingling sensation 
  • Unstable gait
  • Numbness
  • Fatigue
  • Anemia
  • Loss of vision

Can you take too much copper?

Copper toxicity is rare; however, copper toxicities have been reported in people who consumed contaminated water containing high levels of copper. People with the rare autosomal recessive disease Wilson’s disease are at risk for copper toxicity due to the body’s inability to remove unnecessary copper from the body. 


The Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) established Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (ULs) for copper from foods and supplements for healthy individuals based on levels associated with liver damage. 


Age

Male

Female

Pregnant

Lactating

14-18 years

8,000 mcg/ day

8,000 mcg/ day

8,000 mcg/ day

8,000 mcg/ day

19+ years

10,000 mcg/ day

10,000 mcg/ day

10,000 mcg/ day

10,000 mcg/ day


 

How can I get the right amount of copper?

First and Foremost provides your daily RDA amount of copper to supplement your diet for optimal nutrition on a daily basis. Achieving your optimal nutrition status always starts with food first. A healthy diet pattern is one that: 

  • Includes a variety of vegetables, fruits, grains, and dairy. Some vegetables, fruits, grains, and dairy products contain copper. 
  • Include a variety of protein foods such as lean meats, poultry, eggs, seafood, beans, peas and lentils, nuts and seeds. Some organ meats, seafoods, nuts and seeds are rich in copper. Other types of meats, fish and beans contain copper. 
  • Limit foods and beverages higher in added sugars, and limit alcohol consumption. 

References

  1. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Copper-HealthProfessional/
  2. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism; 7th edition; S. Gropper, J. Smith, T. Carr. Page 509-518.
  3. Baker DH. Cupric oxide should not be used as a copper supplement for either animals or humans. J Nutr. 1999; 129:2278-9.
  4. Rosado JL. Zinc and copper: proposed fortification levels and recommended zinc compounds. J Nutr 2003;133:2985S-9S. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12949397/

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