Diet - copper

Alternative names 
Copper in diet

Copper is an essential trace mineral present in all body tissues.

Copper, along with iron, helps in the formation of red blood cells. It also helps in keeping the blood vessels, nerves, immune system, and bones healthy.

Food Sources
Oysters and other shellfish, whole grains, beans, nuts, potatoes, and organ meats are good sources of copper. Dark leafy greens, dried fruits such as prunes, cocoa, black pepper, and yeast are also sources of copper in the diet.

Side Effects
Dietary deficiency of copper is not very common in humans. Menkes disease (kinky hair syndrome) is a very rare congenital disorder of copper metabolism that occurs in male infants.

In large amounts, copper is toxic. There is a rare hereditary disorder (Wilson’s disease) that causes deposits of copper in the liver, brain, and other organs. The increased copper in these tissues leads to hepatitis, kidney problems, neurologic disorders, and other problems.

The recommended daily allowances for copper are:

  • infants - 0.5 to 1 milligrams  
  • children - 1 to 2 milligrams  
  • adults - 2 milligrams

The average adult intake in the United States is between 2.5 and 5 milligrams.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 4, 2012
by Janet G. Derge, M.D.

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