Copper is an essential trace mineral that is the third most abundant mineral in the body (after iron and zinc). Copper is found in skeletal muscle and skin but the highest concentrations are found in the brain and liver.
Several enzymes require copper making this mineral important for a number of enzymatic reactions. Copper is required in superoxide dismutase (SOD), an enzyme that eliminates a type of free-radical called superoxide.
Another copper dependent enzyme called lysyl oxidase ensures the proper crosslinking of collagen and elastin. While these two proteins are associated with skin health, they provide structural support to bone and connective tissue throughout the body.
Due to its role in the formation of connective tissue, copper is essential for proper wound healing. As a result of extensive research in this area, Procyte developed a patented copper peptide technology called GHK Copper Peptide Complex™. This ingredient is formulated in a wide range of Procyte products for everyday use and following surgery. Johnson & Johnson’s Visibly Firm product line (Neutrogena) is also formulated using this patented ingredient.
The enzyme tyrosinase which requires copper is involved in melanin formation, the pigment that gives our skin, hair and eyes color. Other enzymes that copper is involved in play a role in the formation of red blood cells, the absorption and utilization of iron, energy production, and normal functioning of muscles, the nervous system and immune system.
Copper has been shown to benefit those with inflammatory diseases such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The enzyme SOD, which is dependent on copper, prevents inflammation in the joints. If you have arthritis you may have heard of the benefit of wearing a copper bracelet. Evidence supports that the copper is absorbed through the skin where it exerts an anti-inflammatory effect.
Major Functions of Copper
Essential for formation of connective tissue
Aids in formation of bone, hemoglobin and red blood cells
Works in balance with vitamin C and zinc to form elastin
Involved in healing process and energy production
Needed for healthy nerves and joints
Copper is found in a wide range of foods. Excellent sources include oysters and other shellfish, liver and legumes.
Good sources include green leafy vegetables (Swiss chard, spinach, mustard greens, kale); seeds (sesame, sunflower, pumpkin); nuts (walnuts, flax, almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, pecans); vegetables (summer squash, asparagus, eggplant, tomato, sweet potato, bell pepper, winter squash, fennel, Brussels sprouts, beets, avocado); mushrooms (crimini, Shiitake); legumes (green beans, soybeans, lentils, chickpeas, navy beans, green peas, lima beans, peanuts, kidney beans, pinto beans); some fruits (kiwi fruit, pineapple, pear, raspberries, strawberries) and whole grains (barley, quinoa, spelt).
The leaching of copper from copper water pipes makes drinking water a source of this mineral. Cooking in copper cookware can increase the copper content of foods. Long-term cooking and the processing of whole grains substantially decrease the copper content of foods. It is believed that the lower copper content of many whole grains and vegetables is due to the depletion of copper from soil.
Recommended Dietary Allowance
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for copper is 900 mcg (9 mg) for adults. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level for copper is 10,000 mcg (1,000 mg).
If you look on a nutritional supplement facts panel, you’ll notice the Amount Per Serving for copper and the % Daily Values is at located at the top of the panel. The Amount Per Serving is based on the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for this nutrient which is considered to be sufficient to meet the requirements of nearly all (97–98%) healthy individuals in each life-stage and sex group. The Reference Daily Intake for copper is 2 mgs which represents 100% of the Daily Values.
A ratio of 1:10 between copper and zinc in the diet or through supplements should be maintained.
Given the wide number of foods that contain copper and the low amount required by the body, deficiencies in copper are not common. However, some conditions which decrease copper absorption can lead to copper deficiency. Examples include high dosing of zinc or vitamin C, chronic diarrhea and malabsorptive states (e.g., celiac disease, Crohn’s disease).
Medications such as the birth control pill increase the absorption of copper. Unlike other minerals, copper needs sufficient levels of stomach acid for absorption. Antacid medications, which prevent the release of stomach acid, can lead to copper deficiency.
Given its role in connective tissue development, wound healing, and its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, copper is incorporated in several of our Recovery and Wellness product formulations. In VitaMedica products that contain copper and zinc, a 1:10 ratio is maintained.
Clinical Support Program and Recovery Support Program are formulated with 2.1 mg of copper and 21 mg of zinc. To support overall health, Bone Support and Multi-Vitamin & Mineral are formulated with 1.5 mg of copper and 15 mg of zinc. Anti-Aging Formula is formulated with 1.0 mg of this mineral.
Last updated July 1, 2018
David H. Rahm, M.D. is the founder and medical director of The Wellness Center, a medical clinic located in Long Beach, CA. Dr. Rahm is also president and medical director of VitaMedica. Dr. Rahm is one of a select group of conventional medical doctors who have education and expertise in functional medicine and nutritional science. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Rahm has published articles in the plastic surgery literature and educated physicians about the importance of good peri-operative nutrition.