Copper deficiency is uncommon, but is sometimes found in combination with iron deficiency, especially with iron deficiency anemia.
Fatigue, paleness, skin sores, edema, slowed growth, hair loss, anorexia, diarrhea and dermatitis can be symptoms of copper insufficiency. As zinc supplementaion is becoming more popular, the effect of reduced copper absorption seen with increased zinc consumption will probably make deficiencies of copper become more common.
The reduced red blood cell function and shortened red cell life span found with copper deficiency can influence energy levels and cause weakness and labored respiration from decreased oxygen delivery. Low copper levels may also affect collagen formation and thus tissue health and healing. Reduced thyroid function, cardiovascular disease, increased cholesterol, skeletal defects related to bone demineralization and poor nerve conductivity – including irregular heart rhythms – might all result from copper depletion.
Copper deficiency results in several abnormalities of the immune system, such as a reduced cellular immune response, reduced activity of white blood cells and, possibly, reduced thymus hormone production, all of which may contribute to an increased infection rate. Infants fed an all-dairy (cow’s milk) diet without copper supplements may develop copper deficiency.
Conditions that suggest Copper Deficiency
Although supportive data is limited, a report from a study group of hyperthyroid women suggests that copper status should at least be investigated in women with hyperthyroidism.
“Thyroid and immune system health are crucially dependent upon copper. As far as I can see now, copper deficiency is the most important factor in the development of hyperthyroidism. Virtually all hypers in the hyperthyroidism group have found that copper supplementation reduced their symptoms, usually within hours or a few days at most. Most have reported that within three to six months of beginning copper supplementation, they have been able to significantly reduce their intake of antithyroid drugs. While copper is the big story in hyperthyroidism, it is not the whole story. If it were, it would have been discovered years ago. Proper copper metabolism interrelates with and depends upon many other nutrients.” [John Johnson, iThyroid.com]
Aneurysm / Weakened Arteries
Copper deficiency can contribute to some cardiovascular risks. Aortic aneurysms may be a genetic condition related to a defect in the ability to store or absorb copper. Copper is a cofactor for lysyl oxidase, an enzyme that is responsible for the connective tissue integrity by crosslinking elastin. Elastin is the main material of several important organs, which include blood vessels, spinal discs, lungs, and skin. In theory if you have a family or personal history of aneurysms, consider taking 2-4mg of copper per day, especially if significant amounts of zinc have been or are being consumed.
Men are more susceptible to aneurysms than young women, probably because estrogen increases the efficiency of copper absorption. However, women can be affected by this problem after pregnancy, probably because women must give the liver of their unborn babies large copper stores in order for them to survive the low milk copper.
Anemia (Iron deficiency)
Copper deficiency, due to its effects on ceruloplasmin, may cause an iron-deficiency anemia which can only be corrected with copper supplementation as it impairs iron absorption, reduces heme synthesis and increases iron accumulation in storage tissues. [J Orthomol Med 4( 2): pp.99-108, 1989]
Increased Risk of Stroke
A copper deficiency has been associated with weakening of connective tissue that can be a contributing factor for the development of cerebral aneurysms and hemorrhagic strokes.
Ventricular premature beats have disappeared after supplementation with copper in a few cases. In one of these people, supplementing with zinc made the arrhythmia worse, confirming previous observations that excessive zinc intake may lead to copper deficiency and arrhythmia.
A copper deficiency has been associated with weakening of connective tissue that can be a contributing factor for the development of hemorrhoids.
There are a limited number of studies that suggest low copper levels may reduce thyroid function. In cases where hypothyroidism is not responding properly to medication, make sure that copper levels are normal.
Low White Count
Copper deficiency needs to be included in the differential diagnosis of anemia and/or neutropenia in individuals with suspected copper deficiency. [ American Journal of Hematology, 1995;48: pp.45-47]
Low Back Pain / Problems
A copper deficiency has been associated with weakening of connective tissue that can be a contributing factor for the development of slipped or herniated discs.
Risk factors for Copper Deficiency
Had typical/had severe gastric bypass
Copper Deficiency suggests the following may be present
Copper Deficiency can lead to
Recommendations for Copper Deficiency
|Weak or unproven link|
|Strong or generally accepted link|
|Proven definite or direct link|
|May do some good|
An essential mineral that is a component of several important enzymes in the body and is essential to good health. Copper is found in all body tissues. Copper deficiency leads to a variety of abnormalities, including anemia, skeletal defects, degeneration of the nervous system, reproductive failure, pronounced cardiovascular lesions, elevated blood cholesterol, impaired immunity and defects in the pigmentation and structure of hair. Copper is involved in iron incorporation into hemoglobin. It is also involved with vitamin C in the formation of collagen and the proper functioning in central nervous system. More than a dozen enzymes have been found to contain copper. The best studied are superoxide dismutase (SOD), cytochrome C oxidase, catalase, dopamine hydroxylase, uricase, tryptophan dioxygenase, lecithinase and other monoamine and diamine oxidases.
An essential mineral. Prevents anemia: as a constituent of hemoglobin, transports oxygen throughout the body. Virtually all of the oxygen used by cells in the life process are brought to the cells by the hemoglobin of red blood cells. Iron is a small but most vital, component of the hemoglobin in 20,000 billion red blood cells, of which 115 million are formed every minute. Heme iron (from meat) is absorbed 10 times more readily than the ferrous or ferric form.
A condition resulting from an unusually low number of red blood cells or too little hemoglobin in the red blood cells. The most common type is iron-deficiency anemia in which the red blood cells are reduced in size and number, and hemoglobin levels are low. Clinical symptoms include shortness of breath, lethargy and heart palpitations.
Abnormal accumulation of fluids within tissues resulting in swelling.
An eating disorder characterized by excess control - a morbid fear of obesity leads the sufferer to try and limit or reduce their weight by excessive dieting, exercising, vomiting, purging and use of diuretics. Sufferers are typically more than 15% below the average weight for their height/sex/age and typically have amenorrhea (if female) or low libido (if male). 1-2% of female teenagers are anorexic.
Excessive discharge of contents of bowel.
A general term used to refer to eruptions or rashes on the skin.
An essential trace mineral. The functions of zinc are enzymatic. There are over 70 metalloenzymes known to require zinc for their functions. The main biochemicals in which zinc has been found to be necessary include: enzymes and enzymatic function, protein synthesis and carbohydrate metabolism. Zinc is a constituent of insulin and male reproductive fluid. Zinc is necessary for the proper metabolism of alcohol, to get rid of the lactic acid that builds up in working muscles and to transfer it to the lungs. Zinc is involved in the health of the immune system, assists vitamin A utilization and is involved in the formation of bone and teeth.
Red Blood Cell
Any of the hemoglobin-containing cells that carry oxygen to the tissues and are responsible for the red color of blood.
The primary protein within white fibers of connective tissue and the organic substance found in tendons, ligaments, cartilage, skin, teeth and bone.
Thyroid Gland: An organ with many veins. It is at the front of the neck. It is essential to normal body growth in infancy and childhood. It releases thyroid hormones - iodine-containing compounds that increase the rate of metabolism, affect body temperature, regulate protein, fat, and carbohydrate catabolism in all cells. They keep up growth hormone release, skeletal maturation, and heart rate, force, and output. They promote central nervous system growth, stimulate the making of many enzymes, and are necessary for muscle tone and vigor.
Pertaining to the heart and blood vessels.
A waxy, fat-like substance manufactured in the liver and found in all tissues, it facilitates the transport and absorption of fatty acids. In foods, only animal products contain cholesterol. An excess of cholesterol in the bloodstream can contribute to the development of atherosclerosis.
A complex that protects the body from disease organisms and other foreign bodies. The system includes the humoral immune response and the cell-mediated response. The immune system also protects the body from invasion by making local barriers and inflammation.
White Blood Cell
(WBC): A blood cell that does not contain hemoglobin: a blood corpuscle responsible for maintaining the body's immune surveillance system against invasion by foreign substances such as viruses or bacteria. White cells become specifically programmed against foreign invaders and work to inactivate and rid the body of a foreign substance. Also known as a leukocyte.
Chemical substances secreted by a variety of body organs that are carried by the bloodstream and usually influence cells some distance from the source of production. Hormones signal certain enzymes to perform their functions and, in this way, regulate such body functions as blood sugar levels, insulin levels, the menstrual cycle, and growth. These can be prescription, over-the-counter, synthetic or natural agents. Examples include adrenal hormones such as corticosteroids and aldosterone; glucagon, growth hormone, insulin, testosterone, estrogens, progestins, progesterone, DHEA, melatonin, and thyroid hormones such as thyroxine and calcitonin.
An abnormal condition of the thyroid gland resulting in excessive secretion of thyroid hormones characterized by an increased metabolism and weight loss.
The chemical processes of living cells in which energy is produced in order to replace and repair tissues and maintain a healthy body. Responsible for the production of energy, biosynthesis of important substances, and degradation of various compounds.
A substance that acts with another substance to bring about certain effects, often a coenzyme.
Specific protein catalysts produced by the cells that are crucial in chemical reactions and in building up or synthesizing most compounds in the body. Each enzyme performs a specific function without itself being consumed. For example, the digestive enzyme amylase acts on carbohydrates in foods to break them down.
A protein that is similar to collagen and is the chief constituent of elastic fibers.
(mg): 1/1,000 of a gram by weight.
One of the female sex hormones produced by the ovaries.
The deep red iron-containing hemoglobin found in foods of animal origin.
A condition caused by variation in the regular rhythm of the heartbeat. Arrhythmias may cause serious conditions such as shock and congestive heart failure, or even death.
Varicose disorder causing painful swellings at the anus; piles.
Diminished production of thyroid hormone, leading to low metabolic rate, tendency to gain weight, and sleepiness.