Nutrition Library

Copper

General Information
  • Copper is an essential trace mineral and, after iron and zinc, the third most common mineral in the human body.
  • Almost half of the body’s copper is stored in the muscles, a fifth in the skeleton.
  • Many foods contain copper, so deficiency is very rare.
  • A risk of copper deficiency occurs for individuals with mineral absorption disorders (e.g., with intestinal diseases) or due to prolonged, excessive zinc intake (> 50 mg/day).
  • Copper and iron metabolism are closely linked.
Why Do We Need Copper?
  • Copper plays an important role in iron metabolism, including iron absorption in the intestine and the formation of red blood cells (erythrocytes)
  • Antioxidant effect
  • Important for energy metabolism
  • Important for collagen synthesis and crosslinking (component of bone/cartilage, skin, and connective tissue)
  • Skin and hair pigmentation
  • Important for protein metabolism
  • Plays a role in the neurotransmitter household (especially adrenaline, noradrenaline)
Possible Causes of Deficiency

Inadequate intake:

  • Poor diet based on processed foods

Increased requirements:

  • Pregnancy, lactation
  • Growth
  • Chronic stress on the adrenal gland
  • High zinc intake

Reduced absorption:

  • High iron, calcium, or zinc intake
  • High phytate content in the diet
  • Chronic alcohol consumption
  • Gastrointestinal disorders

Increased excretion:

  • Renal dysfunction

Interaction with medication:

  • Examples: antacids, laxatives
Symptoms of Deficiency
  • General: weakness, fatigue, neurological disorders, insomnia
  • Blood: microcytic hypochromic anemia (iron refractory), fat metabolism disorder with raised total cholesterol and LDL
  • Vessels: aneurysms, vascular ruptures, macroangiopathy
  • Tissue/bone: connective tissue defects, bone fractures, growth disorders
  • Skin/hair: altered pigmentation
  • Immune system: susceptibility to infections
Recommended Intakes

Recommended intake for adolescents and adults:

  • according to D-A-CH: 1 – 1.5 mg/day
  • USA Food and Nutrition Board (FNB): 0.9 mg/day

In children, depending on age, see

The Best Plant Sources (per 100 g)

The best sources of copper are nuts, seeds, soy products, mushrooms, and chocolate with a cocoa content > 70%.

 

  • Mushrooms, dried 5 mg
  • Cocoa powder, full fat oiled 4.5 mg
  • Cocoa powder, lower fat 4.1 mg
  • Cashew nuts 3.7 mg
  • Brewer’s yeast 3.3 mg
  • Nutritional yeast 3.2 mg
  • Soy flour 2.5 mg
  • Cashew butter 2.2 mg
  • Sunflower seeds 1.9 mg
  • Tahini 1.6 mg
  • Hazelnuts 1.6 mg
  • Shiitake mushroom, dried 1.5 mg
  • Sesame 1.4 mg
  • Walnuts 0.9 mg
  • Pumpkin seeds 0.8 mg
  • Peanuts 0.8 mg
  • Chickpeas, dried 0.5 mg
  • Flaxseed 0.4 mg
  • Chanterelle, fresh 0.4 mg
  • Mushroom 0.4 mg
  • Shiitake mushroom, fresh 0.4 mg
  • Avocado 0.3 mg
  • Sweet potatoes 0.2 mg
  • Potatoes 0.1 mg
Sources
  • Gröber, U. (2011): Mikronährstoffe. Metabolic Tuning – Prävention – Therapie. 3. Aufl. Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft mbH Stuttgart

  • Biesalski, H.K., Bischoff, S.C., Pirlich, M., Weidmann, A., (2018). Ernährungsmedizin – Nach dem Curriculum Ernährungsmedizin der Bundesärztekammer (5.Auflage). Stuttgart: Georg Thieme Verlag

  • Schmiedel, V. (2019): Nährstofftherapie – Orthomolekulare Medizin in Prävention, Diagnostik und Therapie (3.Auflage). Stuttgart: Georg Thieme Verlag