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Most people consume less than the recommended amount of this mineral. Some doctors recommend supplementing the average diet with 1–3 mg of copper per day. While the necessity of supplementing a normal diet with copper has not been proven, most people who take zinc supplements, including the zinc found in multivitamin-mineral supplements, should probably take additional copper.
Cupric oxide (CuO) is a form of copper frequently used in vitamin-mineral supplements sold over-the-counter. However, animal studies have shown conclusively this form of copper is poorly absorbed from the gut; it should therefore not be used in supplements.1, 2, 3, 4 Several other forms of copper (including copper sulfate, cupric acetate, and alkaline copper carbonate) are better absorbed, and are therefore preferable to cupric oxide.5
Many people consume slightly less than the “safe and adequate range” of copper, 1.5–3.0 mg per day. Little is known about the clinical effects of these marginally adequate intakes, though frank copper deficiency is uncommon. Children with Menkes’ disease are unable to absorb copper normally and become severely deficient unless medically treated early in life. Deficiency can also occur in people who supplement with zinc without also increasing copper intake. Zinc interferes with copper absorption.6 Health consequences of zinc-induced copper deficiency can be quite serious.7 In the absence of copper supplementation, vitamin C supplementation has also been reported to mildly impair copper metabolism.8 Copper deficiency can result in anemia, lower levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol, or cardiac arrhythmias.
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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2017.