Copper: The Health Benefits, Deficiency Symptoms, And Side Effects

Medically reviewed by Dr. Abby Kramer, DC
Written by Ravi Teja Tadimalla

What if I tell you that there is one trace mineral that can boost your brain health and put all brain ailments at bay? Or how about enhancing your immunity big time? I am talking about copper. Though not discussed much, this mineral makes your life better in several ways. And in this post, we’ll look at all of them – the benefits of copper you must know. Just keep reading.

In This Article

What’s Up With Copper?
What Are The Health Benefits Of Copper?
What Are The Signs Of Copper Deficiency?
What Are The Foods Rich In Copper?
What Are The Side Effects Of Excess Copper?

What’s Up With Copper?

There are quite a number of ways copper can benefit you. The first of them is it provides energy to the brain and improves the functioning of the nervous system. It also helps in the production of red blood cells – it aids the process and boosts your immunity. It achieves this along with iron.

Copper also contributes to the health of bones, nerves, and even promotes iron absorption (offering an entirely different set of benefits) in a way.

Well, there’s more. Why don’t you just check them out?

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What Are The Health Benefits Of Copper?

1. Boosts Your Brain Health

Copper is one important ingredient of enzymes that activate the brain’s neurotransmitters. New research indicates that adequate copper levels are essential to brain health. The brain takes in 20 percent of the oxygen you inhale. And since most copper in the body is found in the brain, the organ sure needs adequate copper (1).

Neurodegeneration in adults is often linked to an imbalance in copper levels. Also, a couple of the symptoms of copper deficiency are the inability to concentrate and poor mood.

2. Boosts Your Joint And Bone Health

Copper contributes to bone mineral density, and low levels of the mineral can lead to osteoporosis (2). It also plays a role in collagen health, which is an important structural component in our bodies. Insufficient copper can lead to depletion of collagen, and this eventually results in joint dysfunction.

The anti-inflammatory properties of copper can also ease arthritis pain.

And, by the way, there are some claims going on about copper bracelets and how they can treat joint pains. Proponents claim that the anti-inflammatory properties of the copper in the bracelet can get transferred to the body upon contact. Let me tell you that there is no research to support this claim (3).

3. Strengthens Your Immunity



As we discussed earlier, copper, along with iron, helps in the production of red blood cells. This builds your immunity. Deficiency in copper can lead to neutropenia, which is a lower amount of white blood cells – and research says this condition can cause one to fall ill more often. These effects are more pronounced in infants, which is why they need to have sufficient copper levels more than anyone else (4).

4. Promotes Metabolism

Copper supports over 50 enzymatic reactions that take place in your body on a daily basis. This supports a healthy metabolism.

The mineral also plays a role in the synthesis of ATP, or adenosine triphosphate – which is the body’s source of energy. Which is why deficiency of copper can lead to a sluggish metabolism.

 5. Contributes To Proper Growth And Development

Copper deficiency, unfortunately, is quite common in third world countries and is quite visible in children – where kids suffer from stunted growth and other developmental complications. This is because copper deficiency can affect joint and bone development and even the development of the brain.

Additionally, copper is also required for the oxygenation of red blood cells – and low levels of the mineral can mean your organs do not receive adequate levels of oxygen. This can lead to developmental issues. Studies show that deficiency in copper can also delay growth in infants.

6. Supports Your Thyroid Health

Copper works with potassium, zinc, calcium, and potassium (essential nutrients for thyroid health) and promotes thyroid health. As a result, it can help prevent conditions like hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.

Studies suggest that how the metabolism of copper is essential to prevent or manage thyroid disease (5).

7. Delays Aging



Studies show that copper is as important to anti-aging as retinol and alpha hydroxy acids. And then, there are copper peptides, a copper complex that can reduce inflammation and keep the skin looking younger and fresher. Since copper helps build collagen, and since collagen is also important to maintain skin elasticity, it should be safe to say that copper can improve skin firmness and reduce wrinkles.

Studies also state that copper stabilizes skin proteins, improving the overall skin health (6). It also helps in the production of melanin, which is the pigment that protects your skin from UV radiation.

8. Copper Can Boost Your Hair Health

Copper peptides are also known to increase the size of the hair follicles and subsequently stop hair thinning. And since copper helps in the production of melanin, it can even prevent premature graying of hair.

These are the benefits of copper. These tell us how important the trace mineral is, don’t they? Inadequate levels of this mineral can lead to complications. Let’s see what they are.

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What Are The Signs Of Copper Deficiency?

Deficiency of copper can lead to the following issues:

  • Anemia
  • Bone fractures
  • Thyroid issues
  • Osteoporosis
  • Loss of pigmentation of hair and skin
  • Menkes disease (neurodevelopmental delays in infants)

The only way to prevent copper deficiency is by ensuring you take enough it. Which takes us to the next section.

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What Are The Foods Rich In Copper?

The RDA of copper is 900 mcg a day for both adults and adolescents. And the upper limit is 10 mg per day. Keeping that in mind, you can include the following foods in your diet as required:

  • Beef liver – 3 oz contains 4.49 mg, which meets 641% of the RDA.
  • Mushrooms (shitake) – 1 cup (cooked) contains 1.29 mg, which meets 184% of the RDA.
  • Cashews – 1 oz contains 0.62 mg, which meets 88% of the RDA.
  • Kale – 2 cups (raw) contain 0.48 mg, which meets 68% of the RDA.
  • Cocoa powder – 1 tablespoon (unsweetened) contains 0.41 mg, which meets 58% of the RDA.
  • Almonds – 1 oz contains 0.29 mg, which meets 41% of the RDA.
  • Avocado – ½ fruit contains 0.12 mg, which meets 17% of the RDA.

All good. But do you know that excess copper in your body can cause issues?

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What Are The Side Effects Of Excess Copper?

  • Issues During Pregnancy And Breastfeeding

Taking copper in higher doses during pregnancy and breastfeeding can be unsafe. Pregnant women above 19 years of age must take no more than 10 mg of copper a day.

  • Wilson’s Disease

Excess copper levels in the body can lead to copper toxicity, which can affect the major organs of the body.

  • Other Side Effects

Headache, dizziness, weakness, liver cirrhosis, and jaundice.

  • Drug Interactions

Excess copper, especially in the supplemental form, can interact with birth control pills, NSAIDs like aspirin and ibuprofen, penicillamine, allopurinol, and other zinc supplements.

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It could be a trace mineral, but it sure does benefit you in several ways, doesn’t it? So, why don’t you start by including more of the foods rich in copper?

And why don’t you leave a comment below? Let us know how this post has helped you.


1. “Copper on the brain at rest”. ScienceDaily.
2. “Mechanisms for copper acquisition…”. US National Library of Medicine.
3. “Copper bracelets and magnetic wrist…”. US National Library of Medicine.
4. “Copper”. Oregon State University.
5. “Zinc, copper, manganese…”. US National Library of Medicine.
6. “Using copper to improve the…”. US National Library of Medicine.

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Ravi Teja Tadimalla is an editor and a published author. He graduated from SRM University, Chennai, and has been in the digital media field for over six years. He has a Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition & Research from Wageningen University. He considers himself a sculptor born to chip away at content and reveal its dormant splendor. He started his career as a research writer, primarily focusing on health and wellness, and has over 250 articles to his credit. Ravi believes in the great possibilities of abundant health with natural foods and organic supplements. Reading and theater are his other interests.