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Other name(s):

chelated copper, copper histidinate, cupric acetate

General description

Copper is a soft, reddish-orange metal. It’s an essential trace element. It’s being studied to see how it helps the body. Copper may treat some types of anemia that don’t respond to iron. Wilson disease and Menkes (kinky hair) disease are related to not being able to use copper.

Copper levels are highest in the liver and brain. Copper is also found in the kidneys, pancreas, and heart. Estrogen increases the amount of copper in your body. For this reason, copper levels are highest during pregnancy.

Copper helps to form hemoglobin. It’s needed to make red blood cells. It’s also needed for the energy production cycle of cells.

Copper helps your body absorb iron from the intestines. It also plays a role in making new bone and connective tissue.

Medically valid uses

Copper comes as a supplement. It often comes in a multivitamin, mineral form.

Not getting enough copper can make you become deficient in this essential nutrient. This can cause anemia. In some cases, copper supplements can improve anemia. They can also help balance cholesterol, blood pressure, and heart rhythm. Copper is also used to treat Menkes disease.

Unsubstantiated claims

There may be benefits that have not yet been proven through research.

Copper may help treat arthritis. Some people wear copper bracelets on their wrists to treat arthritis. Copper is also claimed to help prevent heart disease and cancer.

Recommended intake

Supplements come as chelated (nontoxic) copper. Copper is measured in micrograms (mcg). The RDA is the Recommended Dietary Allowance.



Birth to 6 months

200 mcg

Infants 7 to 12 months

220 mcg

Children 1 to 3 years

340 mcg

Children 4 to 8 years

440 mcg

Children 9 to 13 years

700 mcg

Adolescents 14 to 18 years

890 mcg

Adults 19 years and older

900 mcg

Pregnant people

1,000 mcg

Breastfeeding people

1,300 mcg

Good dietary sources of copper include beef liver, nuts, beans, and mushrooms. Other sources include oysters and other types of shellfish, dark leafy greens, cocoa, and honey.

Copper is common in food sources. This is why copper deficiency is rare. However, the average American diet tends to be low in copper. Vegetarians often have higher copper levels than people who eat a standard American diet. People who receive their nutrition by IV (intravenous) feeding (total parenteral nutrition) may need copper supplements.

Copper competes with zinc for absorption. So, high levels of zinc may cause a copper deficiency.

Copper deficiency can lead to a low white blood count. It can also make you more likely to get infections. It can also cause bone demineralization, which may cause osteoporosis.

Copper plays a role in melanin synthesis. Copper deficiency can cause problems with your skin and tissues. These can include defective collagen formation and problems with skin and hair pigmentation.

Copper deficiency can also keep your immune system from working well. This is due to a reduced energy metabolism. Other symptoms of copper deficiency may include arthritis, inflammation, and anemia. They can also include weakening of connective tissue and heart damage.

Side effects, toxicity, and interactions

High levels of copper can lead to side effects. Symptoms can include:

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Irritability and restlessness

  • Dizziness

  • Jaundice

  • Muscle pain

Long-term high copper levels can lead to liver disease (cirrhosis). Wilson disease, a rare genetic issue, causes copper to build up quickly in your body. It builds up in your liver, blood, brain, and other organs. This causes cirrhosis and brain damage. You’ll need to take chelating (detoxifying) agents to get rid of the excess copper.

Keep all copper compounds away from children. The inorganic salts of copper, such as copper sulfate, are very poisonous.

Copper can interact with medicines. Estrogens and thiazide diuretics may increase copper levels in your body. Antacids may lower copper levels.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should talk to their healthcare providers before taking any supplements. 

Zinc and iron can interfere with the absorption of copper. High levels of vitamin C may lower copper levels.

Online Medical Reviewer: Bianca Garilli MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Chris Southard RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Jessica Gotwals RN BSN MPH
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2023
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