Copper is an essential trace mineral present in all body tissues.
Copper works with iron to help the body form red blood cells. It also helps keep the blood vessels, nerves, immune system, and bones healthy.
Oysters and other shellfish, whole grains, beans, nuts, potatoes, and organ meats (kidneys, liver) 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.
Normally people have enough copper in the foods they eat. Menkes disease (kinky hair syndrome) is a very rare disorder of copper metabolism that is present before birth. It occurs in male infants.
Lack of copper may lead to anemia and osteoporosis.
In large amounts, copper is poisonous. A rare inherited disorder, Wilson's disease, causes deposits of copper in the liver, brain, and other organs. The increased copper in these tissues leads to hepatitis, kidney problems, brain disorders, and other problems.
The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine recommends the following dietary intake for copper:
Adolescents and Adults
The best way to get the daily requirement of essential vitamins is to eat a balanced diet that contains a variety of foods from the food guide plate.
Specific recommendations depend on age, gender, and other factors (such as pregnancy). Women who are pregnant or producing breast milk (lactating) need higher amounts. Ask your health care provider which amount is best for you.
Diet - copper
Trumbo P, Yates AA, Schlicker S, Poos M. Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, The National Academies. Dietary reference intakes: vitamin A, vitamin K, arsenic, boron, chromium, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, silicon, vanadium, and zinc. J Am Diet Assoc. 2001 Mar;101(3):294-301.
Mason JB. Vitamins, trace minerals, and other micronutrients. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 225.
Updated by: Alison Evert, MS, RD, CDE, Nutritionist, University of Washington Medical Center Diabetes Care Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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