Copper is an essential coenzyme (non-protein portion of an enzyme) in several enzyme systems that are involved in numerous bodily functions. Enzymes for which copper is a component include among others; superoxide dismutase, lysyl oxidase, beta hydroxylase, cytochrome oxidase and tryptophan pyrolase. In its enzymatic capacity, copper facilitates oxidation of numerous compounds, such as monoamines and uric acid. Its enzymatic influence is also important to processes such as haemoglobin formation, skin pigmentation, blood clotting and energy production. The participation of copper in so many catalytic systems means that a deficiency will adversely affect many aspects of biological function.


Lysyl oxidase, an enzyme which is dependent on copper, is needed for the proper integration of collagen and elastin with the body tissues. In this respect, lysyl oxidase allows for the cross-linking of the fibres of both collagen and elastin, thus allowing them to help establish connective tissue structures with the necessary stability and elasticity. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and is the major structural component of connective tissue i.e. within the skin, blood vessels, joints, bones, eyes, lungs, intestines and so on. Improper cross-linking can lead to weak blood vessels, osteoporosis, arthritis, skin damage and many other problems.


Like zinc and manganese, copper is a component of the enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD). SOD is a powerful antioxidant produced by the body for protection against free radical damage to cells, tissues and essential bodily compounds. In this manner, SOD neutralises superoxide radicals, which are, among other things, implicated in triggering tissue damage and inflammation. The joints and eyes are thought to be especially susceptible to superoxide radicals. Proper SOD synthesis may be especially important in cases of arthritis, sprains, strains and cataracts.

Potential Applications

•        Connective tissue health (general)

•        Arthritis

•        Sprains

•        Strains

•        Repetitive strain injury (RSI)

•        Anaemia

•        Vascular instability

•        Cardiovascular disease

•        Anaemia

•        Cataracts

•        Antioxidant protection

•       Zinc excess (see Contraindications/Cautions below)

EC RDA (adults)

•        None established

Common Supplement Forms/Sources

•        Copper sulfate

•        Copper lysinate

•        Copper glycinate

•        Copper gluconate

Common Food Sources

•        Oysters

•        Shellfish

•        Liver

•        Nuts

•        Soy flour

•        Buckwheat

•        Dried peas

•        Dried chickpeas

•        Dried fruit

•        Wheat bran

Contraindications/Cautions/lnteractions/Toxicity Concerns


With copper supplements there is a risk of a dangerous accidental overdose – as with iron, copper

supplements should be kept out of the reach of children It has been reported that doses as little as

3.5 grams (3500mg) may be lethal.

•        Symptoms of copper toxicity include nausea and vomiting, headache, diarrhoea, gastric pain, dizziness, insomnia, weakness, high blood pressure, jaundice and racing heart.

•        Excessive copper intake may cause a metallic taste in the mouth.

•        Copper accumulation in tissues is a common feature of many health disorders. Supplementation should not be taken in the event of tissue copper excess unless on the advice and under the monitoring of a qualified healthcare practitioner.

•        Individuals suffering from Wilson’s Disease should avoid supplements containing copper.

•        People who suffer with haemochromatosis should not take copper unless on the advice and und the strict monitoring of a physician.

•        High doses of copper can adversely affect zinc status (and vice versa).

Although there are differing scientific views on what constitutes an optimal ratio between copp and zinc, it is though that a ratio for long-term intake between 1:7.5 and 1:10 (copper to zinc) probably appropriate.

Agents/Factors Which Deplete Levels

•        Zinc (higher doses)

•        Molybdenum (higher doses)

•        Iron (higher doses)

•        Vitamin C (higher doses)

•       Phytates (prominent in cereal grains – especially wheat bran)

Impair Absorption and/or Inhibit Acl

•        Alcohol

•        Fructose (high intake)

•        Egg yolk

•        Antacids

•        Zidovudine (AZT)

•        Ethambutamol

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