Supplements: Copper

diet index logo


Copper is a metal that your body needs in small amounts. Even though you need very little, copper is an essential nutrient that helps make hemoglobin, the main component of red blood cells. It also produces energy and forms collagen, a key part of bones and connective tissue. Copper helps your nervous system operate properly, and helps protect nerve fibers.

We do not know all the ways copper helps people. Research has shown that copper may make your immune system stronger, may help relieve the symptoms of arthritis and other inflammatory conditions, and may even help lessen allergy symptoms.

Some people with arthritis wear copper bracelets to help reduce pain. Research has shown that these and other copper medications may provide relief of arthritis pain. If you have arthritis, talk with your health care provider about whether copper may be helpful to you.

Copper is available in many foods. Although you need very little copper, most people in the United States probably do not get as much copper as they should from their diet. However, very few people get so little copper that it causes health problems, so supplementation is probably unnecessary. You can improve your copper balance by including foods that contain copper, such as shellfish and nuts.


You should talk with your provider before taking copper supplements. Copper may be helpful if you have the following conditions: arthritis, anemia, chemical hypersensitivity, high cholesterol, aneurysms, fatigue, allergies, and stomach ulcers

Pregnant women need more copper. As always, if you are pregnant, talk with your health care provider before taking any supplements.

Dietary Sources

Copper is found in many varied food sources. The best sources include the following.

  • Seafood (especially raw oysters; also squid, whelk, lobster, mussels, crab, and other shellfish)
  • Organ meats (beef liver, kidneys, heart)
  • Nuts (for example, cashews, filberts, macadamia nuts, pecans, almonds, pistachios)
  • Legumes (especially lentils, navy beans, and peanuts)
  • Chocolate (unsweetened or semisweet baker's chocolate, cocoa)
  • Cereals (for example, bran flakes, shredded wheat, raisin bran)
  • Fruits and vegetables (for example, dried fruits, mushrooms, tomatoes, potatoes, bananas, grapes, avocado)
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Black pepper
  • An additional source is from water that flows through copper pipes.

Other Forms

Copper supplements are available, often combined with sulfate, picolinate, gluconate, and amino acids.

How to Take It

Daily dietary copper intake recommended by the National Research Council of the United States: 1.5 to 3.0 mg per day for adults. For children 2 to 11 years, 1.5 to 2.5 mg. Not recommended for children under 2.

The best way to get enough copper is to add foods to your diet that contain copper.

If you take copper supplements, you should also take zinc. You should take 8 to 15 mg of zinc for every 1 mg of copper you take.


You don't need a lot of copper. You should consult your health care provider before taking copper supplements. Too much copper can cause nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, headache, dizziness, weakness, and diarrhea. Dangerous levels of copper (copper poisoning) are extremely rare. However, severe cases can lead to heart problems, jaundice, coma, and even death.

You should avoid eating acidic foods that are stored in copper containers.

Keep copper supplements away from children.

Possible Interactions

Your copper balance could be hurt by alcohol, eggs, fructose, and molybdenum (a metallic element found in trace amounts in the human body).

Your body may have a hard time absorbing copper from food if you are ingesting too much calcium, iron, manganese, tin, zinc, vitamin B6, vitamin C, or antacids.

Excerpt from Integrative Medicine Access Copyright © 1999 Integrative Medicine Communications

This document contains information relating to general principles of medical care that should not in any event be construed as specific instructions for individual patients. The reader is advised to check product information (including package inserts) for changes and new information regarding dosage, precautions, and contraindications before administering any drug. No claim or endorsements are made for any drug or compound currently in investigative use.

No responsibility is assumed by the publisher for any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise, or from any use or operation of any methods, products, instructions, or ideas contained in any material herein. This web site is intended for your own informational purposes only. No person or entity associated with this web site purports to be engaging in the practice of medicine through this medium. The information you receive is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a physician or other health care professional. If you have an illness or medical problem, contact your health care provider. You should consult your health care provider with any questions about the nature or effect of products you purchase here. Be sure to read all directions, warnings and other information accompanying any product before using it.

Dietary supplements are not intended to treat, cure, or prevent any disease or illness, and the information regarding these products has not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

 Material © Healthquick Inc.  Used by permission
Previously Published in OSA Today Reproduced by permission
Updated on: 02/01/10