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Copper is an essential trace mineral. It is needed by the body in very small amounts. Copper is found in all tissues of the body, but mostly in the brain, heart, kidney and liver.

What food source is the nutrient found in? 
Copper is found in whole grains, nuts, organ meats (especially liver), shellfish (especially oysters), dried beans, dried fruits and seeds. Dark leafy greens, dried fruits, cocoa, pepper, and yeast also contain copper. Water also provides some copper, though it is considered insignificant. The amount of copper in water depends on the hardness of the water and the type of plumbing. Cooking with copper pots will increase the copper content of foods.

How does the nutrient affect the body? 
Copper helps the body make haemoglobin, which is needed to carry oxygen in red blood cells. It serves as a part of many body enzymes and helps the body produce energy in the cells. Copper also facilitates the absorption and the use of iron.

The body contains only about 75 to 100 milligrams of copper. Copper deficiency is rare but not unknown. It is rarely caused by a lack of copper in the diet. It is more likely a result of genetic problems or from consuming too much zinc. Copper deficiency can severely disrupt growth and metabolism.

There is no Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) for copper. There is an estimated safe and adequate amount for copper. This is 1.5 to 3.0 milligrams for adult men and women, including pregnant women. Children and infants need less:
  • 0.4 to 0.6 milligram for infants under 6 months
  • 0.6 to 0.7 milligrams for infants 6 months to 1 year
  • 0.7 to 1.0 milligram for children 1 to 3 years old
  • 1.0 to 1.5 milligrams for children 4 to 6 years old
  • 1.0 to 2.0 milligrams for children 1 to 10 years old
  • 1.5 to 2.5 milligrams for adolescents 11 years and older
Harmful effects of too much copper from dietary sources are extremely rare. But toxicity from supplements is possible. Consuming more than 20 milligrams per day can lead to vomiting and nausea. Consuming even larger amounts of copper can be fatal. This can lead to liver disease.

Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr John Hearne
Last Updated: 5/02/2005
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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