Minerals play a fundamental role in maintaining our health. They contribute to various bodily functions, ranging from bone development to maintaining a regular heartbeat. One such essential mineral is copper. This article highlights the importance of adequate copper intake, delves into the health benefits of copper, and answers the question, "Why take copper supplements?"
Disclaimer: This content is for informational or educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any health problem or disease and does not substitute for professional medical advice or consultations with healthcare professionals. Those seeking personal medical advice should speak with their physical or other health provider.
Understanding Copper as a Mineral
Copper, a trace mineral, is a necessary nutrient for human health. Its primary function is to help the body form red blood cells. It also aids in maintaining healthy bones, blood vessels, nerves, and immune function, indicating copper's overall importance to our well-being.
The Importance of Adequate Copper Intake
Current evidence suggests that copper deficiency may be more prevalent than previously thought, and research suggests that the typical Western diet does not provide adequate intake of copper. Insufficient copper can lead to health issues, such as anemia, low body temperature, bone fractures, and unexplained fatigue. And individuals with mild deficiency may not even be aware their levels of copper are low.
Those at greatest risk of severe copper deficiency include people with Menkes syndrome, Wilson's disease, or celiac disease, those who have undergone gastric bypass surgery, and individuals on a low-mineral diet.
Taking supplemental copper is an efficient method to ensure adequate copper levels in the body and enjoy its beneficial effects.
7 Health Benefits of Copper for Women
Copper supplements offer an array of health benefits.
Copper is necessary for proper iron recycling. Without adequate copper levels, anemia is more likely even when taking supplemental iron.
Enhanced immune function is one significant advantage, as copper is known to play a crucial role in the development of immune cells.
Cardiovascular disease affects 44% of women in the US and is the leading cause of death in women. (Source: Centers for Disease Control) In the context of cardiovascular health, copper contributes to the reduction of cholesterol levels and arterial inflammation, thereby minimizing the risk of heart disease. (Source: Journal of Pharmacology & Therapeutics)
Osteoporosis Prevention & Bone Health
Moreover, copper can boost bone health, working with calcium and vitamin D to strengthen bones and prevent bone loss. Women are 5 times as likely to develop osteoporosis than men due to the postmenopausal reduction in estrogen production, so adding copper to your diet is one way to ensure your bones stay healthy and strong. A study of postmenopausal women who added 2 to 4 mg of copper daily while receiving hormone replacement therapy (HRT) showed an 11% increase in bone mineral density compared to only 0.7% in women who received HRT alone. (Source: Kaiser Permanente)
It's a key component of superoxide dismutase, an antioxidant enzyme that helps fight off free radicals, slowing the aging process. (Source: Harvard School of Public Health)
Copper also plays an essential role in neurological health, aiding in neurotransmitter synthesis and maintenance of the myelin sheath, thereby preventing neurodegenerative disorders. (Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition)
Hair and Skin Health
Lastly, copper's role in collagen formation - the protein responsible for skin's hydration and elasticity, which can help reduce wrinkles - and melanin production makes it an asset for hair and skin health. (Source: WebMD.com)
Best Food Sources of Copper
The recommended daily allowance for copper in women ages 19 and up is 900 mcg, 1,000 mcg for pregnant women, and 1,300 for those who are lactating. (Source: National Institutes of Health) And whenever possible, it's best to get copper from your diet.
So what's the best source of dietary copper? Beef liver contains the greatest amount of copper at 12,400 mcg per serving. But if you're not a fan of beef liver, here are five other excellent sources to help increase your dietary intake of copper.
- Shellfish (cooked oysters, crab, and lobster in particular)
- Shiitake mushrooms
- Cashew nuts
- Sunflower seeds
- Dark chocolate
But here's the thing about dietary sources of copper... for proper absorption of copper, it needs to be balanced with manganese and zinc. And if you're a busy woman like me, you need a simple and effective way to ensure your getting the right daily intake of copper. That's where supplements can help!
Potential Risks and Considerations
While the benefits of copper are compelling, and the risk of copper toxicity is low in healthy people, you should be aware of potential risks.
Excessive levels of copper can lead to side effects such as stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea. It might also interfere with the absorption of zinc and other essential nutrients.
Women who have certain health conditions - like Wilson's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, or kidney stones - are on oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or are taking certain medications may absorb higher amounts of copper. Excess copper can lead to toxicity.
You should consult with your healthcare provider before adding copper to your daily supplement routine, and adhere to the recommended dosage to avoid potential side effects.
In essence, copper supplements can be a valuable addition to your health regimen, provided they are taken responsibly and after consulting with your healthcare provider. They serve to ensure that your body's copper requirements are met, thereby contributing to improved overall health.
Our Mom Multi+ multivitamin for women is an excellent source of copper, essential vitamins, and minerals to support your health and wellness.
For women who are pregnant or nursing, our Prenatal vitamins are an excellent source of copper and other nutrients to support a healthy pregnancy and breastfeeding journey.
For further reading, we recommend the following resources:
National Institutes of Health. (2021). Copper: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Copper-HealthProfessional/
Collins, J. F., & Klevay, L. M. (2011). Copper. In Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease (11th ed.). Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. https://pure.johnshopkins.edu/en/publications/modern-nutrition-in-health-and-disease-eleventh-edition
Prohaska J. R. (2011). Impact of copper limitation on expression and function of multicopper oxidases (ferroxidases). Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.), 2(2), 89–95. https://doi.org/10.3945/an.110.000208
DiSilvestro, R. A., Selsby, J., & Siefker, K. (2010). A pilot study of copper supplementation effects on plasma F2alpha isoprostanes and urinary collagen crosslinks in young adult women. Journal of trace elements in medicine and biology : organ of the Society for Minerals and Trace Elements (GMS), 24(3), 165–168. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jtemb.2010.02.003
Nielsen, F. H., Lukaski, H. C., Johnson, L. K., & Roughead, Z. K. (2011). Reported zinc, but not copper, intakes influence whole-body bone density, mineral content and T score responses to zinc and copper supplementation in healthy postmenopausal women. The British journal of nutrition, 106(12), 1872–1879. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007114511002352
Mutlu, M., Argun, M., Kilic, E., Saraymen, R., & Yazar, S. (2007). Magnesium, zinc and copper status in osteoporotic, osteopenic and normal post-menopausal women. The Journal of international medical research, 35(5), 692–695. https://doi.org/10.1177/147323000703500514