The EclecticPhysician

The Eclectic Physician
Vitamin and Mineral Information


The information on this page compiled by
Beth Burch N.D.
(click on the keywords)


Copper is part of a number of important enzymes in the body including superoxide dismutase (breaks down the superoxide free radical), lysyl oxidase (collagen formation), dopamine hydrozylase (converts dopamine to norepinephrine), tyrosinase (melanin formation), ceruloplasmin (iron utilization), cytochrome oxidase (energy production) and clotting factor IV. Copper deficiency is rare, found mostly in malnutrition, malabsorption, chronic diarrhea and excess intake of zinc, vitamin C or antacids. Symptoms of copper deficiency include anemia, bruising, osteoporosis, arthritis, decreased HDL cholesterol and impaired immune function (3). Copper toxicity causes nausea, vomiting, hemolytic anemia, headache, depression, insomnia, lethargy and muscle pain. Two diseases are associated with genetic conditions involving copper. Menkeís kinky hair syndrome results from a genetic defect in copper absorption. Affected infants have low copper levels and mental and growth retardation, sparse and brittle hair and scurvy-like bone changes. Wilsonís disease is a genetic defect that causes copper accumulation in the body. It first manifests as hemolytic anemia, followed by liver cirrhosis, then finally tremors, rigid muscles, dementia and death if untreated.

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  • Copper chelates ( picolinate, gluconate, etc)

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Food Sources

  • Copper is high in oysters, nuts and legumes. Copper also may come from water carried in copper pipes.

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  • Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA)
  • No RDA for copper

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Optimal Supplementation

  • 1.5-3 mg daily

Treatment of Health Conditions

  • 1.5-3 mg daily

Conditions used for

  • Osteoporosis (1)
  • Possibly helpful to prevent atherosclerosis (2)
  • Copper deficiency

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Side effects

  • Nausea and vomiting with as little as 10 mg
  • Lethal at 3500 mg

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  • Wilsonís disease

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Interactions with other nutrients

  • Zinc, calcium and vitamin C decrease copper absorption
  • Copper increases the absorption and utilization of iron

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Interactions with medications and herbs

  • Antacids may decrease the absorption of copper

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1. Eaton-Evans J et al, Copper supplementation and bone-mineral density in middle-aged women, Proc Nutr Soc 1995;54:191A
2. Lamb DJ et al, Dietary copper supplementation reduces atherosclerosis in the cholesterol-fed rabbit, Atherosclerosis 1999;146(1):33-43
3. Klevay LM, Lack of a recommended dietary allowance for copper may be hazardous to your health, J Am Coll Nutr 1998;17(4):322-6

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* The information presented in this web site is intended to inform and educate. It is not intended replace a qualified medical practitioner to diagnose or treat medical conditions.

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