The Health Benefits of Copper

The Health Benefits of Copper


Introduction & Biological Role

Copper is an essential trace mineral vital to all life, including humans.

In humans, copper is used in a variety of proteins and enzymes that are essential to proper growth, development and maintenance of bone, connective tissue, brain, heart and many other body organs. Copper is also involved in red blood cell production, iron absorption and metabolism, cholesterol and glucose metabolism, immune system stimulation and healing promotion, nerve cell activity and health as well as acting as an antioxidant against free radicals.

Health Benefits/ Uses


Copper helps with red blood cells and supplementation may be helpful in individuals with anemia. This is more based on biological plausibility and understanding of red blood cell production. Supplementing will help if you are deficient, most folks are not and I can’t find any data to support supplementation in folks with normal copper levels.


Animal studies suggest that copper supplementation may help prevent and slow the progression of osteoarthritis. This has not been reproduced in humans. A study of individuals wearing copper bracelets for osteoarthritis showed no benefit in pain, stiffness or physical function compared to a placebo. However oral supplementation may be effective, we just need more research.


Copper supplementation shows mild benefit in those with osteoporosis by slowing progression of the disease when taken in conjunction with other minerals including zinc, manganese and calcium.

Cardiovascular Disease

Some studies have linked elevated copper to increased cardiovascular disease risk, but the significance of these results are unclear. Clarification between copper nutritional status which is difficult to define, ceruloplasmin the primary copper carrying protein in the blood, and cardiovascular disease requires more research.

Alzheimer’s disease

One study showed higher levels of serum copper levels are detected in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease than in those without the disease. Another small study showed that copper supplementation was linked to a decrease in amyloid beta plaque (Aβ42) but had no associated improvement in cognitive performance. Research is ongoing to determine the relationship between copper metabolism and Alzheimer’s disease.


Although many people probably do not consume enough copper, a true symptomatic copper deficiency is rare in modernized nations. Signs of a copper deficiency include anemia, low body temperature, bone fractures and osteoporosis, low white blood cell count, irregular heartbeat, loss of pigment from the skin, and thyroid problems.

Interestingly, excessive zinc intake or supplementation can lead to copper malabsorption and deficiency.


Copper toxicity in the general population is very rare.

There are genetic disorders affecting copper metabolism, namely Wilson’s disease, that can lead to copper toxicity. If not treated, symptoms include fatigue, jaundice, bruising, fluid accumulation, speech and coordination difficulty and uncontrolled movements.


Top 10 sources

  • Mollusks (39 mg)
  • Liver (all animals, 16-17 mg)
  • Beef (14-15 mg)
  • Coffee (10 mg)
  • Duck or lamb (8 mg)
  • Salt (6 mg)
  • Grape leaves (5 mg)
  • Seaweed (5 mg)
  • Tea (4 mg)
  • Mushrooms (4 mg)

Other good dietary sources include:

  • Seafood (oysters, squid, lobster, mussels, crab, and clams)
  • Organ meats (beef liver, kidneys, and heart)
  • Cashews filberts, macadamia nuts, pecans, almonds, and pistachios
  • Legumes (soybeans, lentils, navy beans, and peanuts)
  • Enriched cereals (bran flakes, shredded wheat, and raisin bran)
  • Fruits and vegetables (dried fruits, mushrooms, tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, bananas, grapes, and avocado)
  • Black pepper

Copper can also be supplemented in various forms including cupric oxide, copper gluconate, copper sulfate and copper amino acid.

Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA)

  • For adults 19 years and older: 900 mcg daily
  • For pregnant women: 1,000 mcg daily
  • For breastfeeding women: 1,300 mcg daily

Related Links (View All: Vitamins | Minerals | Supplements )

More Minerals

The 10 Best Dietary Sources of Manganese

The 10 Best Dietary Sources of Manganese

Top 10 Dietary Sources of Copper

Top 10 Dietary Sources of Copper