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copperCopper is a trace mineral that is essential for human health. It works with enzymes, which are proteins that aid in the biochemical reactions of every cell. Copper assists these many of these enzymes in crucial reactions in the body.


Copper’s functions include:

Recommended Intake

Age Group Recommended Dietary Allowance/Adequate Intake
Upper Limit
0-6 months200Not determinable
7-12 months220Not determinable
1-3 years3401,000
4-8 years4403,000
9-13 years7005,000
14-18 years8908,000
19 years and older90010,000
18 years and younger
over 18 years
18 years and younger
over 18 years

*Adequate intakes

Copper Deficiency

Many studies show that Americans consume less than adequate amounts of dietary copper. However, copper deficiency in adults is rare. A deficiency may occur, though, due to certain genetic problems, long-term shortages of dietary copper, or excessive intakes of zinc and iron. In addition, premature infants and infants suffering from malnutrition may have deficiencies of copper. People who have had gastric surgery or have conditions that affect how their bodies absorb nutrients are also at risk for copper deficiency.

Symptoms of copper deficiency include anemia, bone loss, a decrease in certain white blood cells, loss of hair color, neurologic problems, and pale skin.

If you are unable to meet your copper needs through dietary sources, copper supplements may be necessary. Copper supplements are usually taken by mouth, but in some cases are given by injection. Your doctor should determine if you need such supplementation.

Copper Toxicity

Cases of toxicity from copper are rare.

Excess copper intake may lead to liver and kidney damage. Symptoms of copper toxicity may include:

Major Food Sources

Foods high in copper include:

Health Implications

There are a number of health conditions and treatments that affect how your body absorbs, uses, or excretes copper. The most common examples include:

If you are concerned about how much copper you are getting in your diet, talk to your doctor before supplementing.


Department of Agriculture

Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics


Dietitians of Canada

Health Canada


Copper. Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University website. Available at: Updated January 2014. Accessed June 30, 2016.

Copper deficiency. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated June 20, 2014. Accessed June 30, 2016.

Dietary reference intakes: elements. Institute of Medicine website. Available at: Accessed June 30, 2016.

Obikoya G. The benefits of zinc. The Vitamins & Nutrition Center website. Available at: Accessed June 30, 2016.

Zinc. Office of Dietary Supplements website. Available at: Updated February 11, 2016. Accessed June 30, 2016.

Last reviewed June 2016 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP  Last Updated: 2/16/2017