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Copper nutrient fact sheet

Copper - profile, daily requirement & more

Are you looking for information about the trace element copper? Then you can now sit back, relax and read the following article! Here you'll find everything you need to know about this essential nutrient. I'll start by summarizing the basics in a fact sheet. I will then provide you with valuable information on intake, daily requirements, physiological importance, risk of overdose or deficiency, as well as good sources of copper. Towards the end, I also provide information for vegans and vegetarians, recommendations for food supplements and answers to frequently asked questions.

Here is in advance a Overview for you:

  1. Profile
  2. Recording
  3. Daily requirement
  4. Meaning
  5. Overdose
  6. Deficiency
  7. Foods
  8. Vegan
  9. Food supplement
  10. FAQ

Notice: This article is not a substitute for medical advice, but merely provides general information about copper. Please consult your doctor if you feel unwell or want to prevent health problems with medical care.

Copper PROFILE at a glance

Assignment: Essential trace element, element category transition metals
Important for: Metabolism, connective tissue, brain development, immune system
Daily requirement: 0.9-1.6 mg/day from the age of 19.1,2,3
Recording: by ingestion
Overdose: Maximum intake of 10 mg/day2,3,4,5
Deficiency symptoms: including anemia, immunodeficiency, disorders of energy and iron metabolism, enzyme processes3
Food: Cocoa powder, cashews, sunflower seeds, tahini6
Food supplement: As capsules or tablets

How do you absorb copper?

Food with copper

Buckwheat flakes, oat flakes and hazelnuts, for example, are recommended foods that are rich in copper. The trace element is a vital mineralwhich is needed in the body for many different processes. The nutrient is also water soluble and stable to light, heat and oxygen.

The trace element Zinc however, is an important antagonist in copper absorption and can inhibit it when high doses of zinc are taken.7 Copper absorption in young children appears to be affected by a high intake of Iron also to decline.8

What is the daily requirement?

The recommended daily intake of copper according to German Society for Nutrition (DGE) between 1.0 and 1.5 mg per day.1 The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) differentiates its reference values according to gender, namely 1.3 mg for women and 1.6 mg for men.2 A slightly lower intake of 0.9 mg is reported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued.3

For pregnant and breastfeeding women is used by the EFSA an increase in copper intake to 1.5 mg per day and from NIH to 1.3 mg daily is recommended.2,3 From the DGE there is no information on this.1

The following are the DGE reference values for Children and teenagers listed.

Children and teenagersRecommended intake in mg
0 to under 4 months0,2-0,6
4 to under 12 months0,6-0,7
1 to under 7 years0,5-1,0
from 7 years and older1,0-1,5
Recommendations in mg for the daily copper requirement of children and adolescents1

What is copper needed for?

The essential trace element fulfills a variety of tasks in the human body. Among other things, copper as a co-factor influences the Iron and energy metabolism and likewise the Synthesis of neurotransmitters. The skin also benefits from a healthy copper intake, as the trace element affects the Connective tissue synthesis and Pigmentation effects. Other important tasks are the Vascularization, gene expression and brain development. Finally, the influence on the function of the Immune system mentioned.3

Important roles of copper in the body at a glance:

  • Co-factor in the enzyme system
  • Influence on energy metabolism
  • Influence on iron metabolism
  • Connective tissue synthesis
  • Synthesis of neurotransmitters
  • Vascularization
  • Gene Expression
  • Brain development
  • Contribution to the immune system

Can copper be overdosed?

In principle, the trace element has a relatively low toxicity, which means that acute poisoning can be avoided. Very unlikely is. Nevertheless, several nutrition societies have set a so-called Tolerable Upper Intake Level - i.e. a maximum intake - of 10 mg per day.2,3,4,5

A chronically increased copper intake can lead to Symptoms such as liver damage or disorders of the digestive tract. Risk group Patients with Wilson's disease are particularly susceptible to copper overdose.2,3

When does the deficiency occur?

A copper deficiency is generally more unlikely. People with a increased risk The most susceptible to copper deficiency are patients with Menkes' syndrome, coeliac disease and people who take high-dose zinc supplements.

In this context, the deficiency of the vital trace element can be Symptoms such as anemia, hypopigmentation, connective tissue disorders, osteoporosis, disorders of the Fat-metabolism, hypercholesterolemia, as well as a movement coordination disorder called ataxia and an increased risk of infection.2,3

What does copper contain?

Copper is in cocoa and cocoa powder

Copper is found in a wide variety of foods. Among them are also many good Plant sourceswhich I recommend for ethical, health and ecological reasons:

  • Cocoa powder (3.8 mg per 100 gram)
  • Cashews (3.7 mg per 100 gram)
  • Sunflower seeds (1.9 mg per 100 gram)
  • Dark chocolate (1.8 mg per 100 gram)
  • Spirulina (1.8 mg per 100 gram)
  • Tahini (1.7 mg per 100 gram)
  • Hazelnuts (1.6 mg per 100 gram)
  • Buckwheat flour (0.9 mg per 100 gram)

What do vegans need to consider?

According to the DGE is Copper not a critical nutrient in a plant-based lifestyle.9 This is due to the fact that there are many good plant-based sources of copper and therefore vegans can also easily cover their copper requirements.

Do copper supplements have any benefit?

For most people, copper supplements are rather superfluous, as they get sufficient amounts of the trace element from their diet. If you belong to a risk group or do not feel well, it may be worth considering supplementation. To do this, you should check your copper status in the Measure serum or whole blood let7

As the metabolism of copper and zinc influence each other, I recommend always supplementing both trace elements if necessary. This way you can avoid having a deficiency in the other nutrient.

I also recommend using food supplements where possible, pay attention to a natural and plant-based origin. One such food supplement based on buckwheat germ is, for example these capsules with zinc, copper and manganese*.

Copper FAQ: The most frequently asked questions

What makes copper deficiency?

Copper deficiency leads to anemia, hypercholesterolemia, increased susceptibility to infections and ataxia, among other things. However, a deficiency is very unlikely.

Which vegetables contain a lot of copper?

Vegetables with a high copper content are kale, garlic, potatoes, ginger root and artichokes.

Which nuts contain copper?

From the nuts and seeds food category, sesame, almonds, hazelnuts, cashew and sunflower seeds are particularly known for their high copper content.

What happens when there is too much copper in the body?

Copper has a low toxicity and rarely leads to acute poisoning. However, it can lead to liver damage or digestive tract disorders in risk groups.

Is copper good for the skin?

Since copper is involved in the synthesis of connective tissue and pigment formation, a healthy copper intake can also have a positive effect on the appearance of the skin.

A good supply of copper is uncomplicated

Most people are affected by a a varied diet are sufficiently supplied with the trace element copper. In certain exceptional cases, however, it may make sense to supplement copper. So that you can live as holistically healthy as possible and help many Prevent diseases I recommend for example Forest bathing, Barefoot walking or Intermittent fasting.

Feel free to leave me a comment with questions, criticism and further suggestions on the subject of copper.

All the best,

Julian from CareElite

PS: You can find lots of good tips for switching to a vegan diet in the article vegan life. If you would like to know more about micronutrients, I recommend the articles on Zinc, Calcium or Vitamin A.


1 Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung e. V.: Copper, manganese, chromium, molybdenum, [07.01.2022].

2 European Food Safety Authority: Scientific Opinion on Dietary References for copper, [07.01.2022].

3 National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements: Copper. Fact Sheet for Health Professionals, [07.01.2022].

4 European Food Safety Authority: Tolerable Upper Intake Levels for Vitamins and Minerals, [07.01.2022].

5 Federal Office for Risk Assessment: Maximum level proposals for copper including food supplements,, [07.01.2022]. [07.01.2022].

6 Zentrum der Gesundheit: Gray hair may be caused by copper deficiency, [07.01.2022].

7 Center of health: Determine mineral deficiency: Diagnosis, [07.01.2022]. 

8 The National Academie Press (2009) Dietary Reference Intakes: The Essential Guide to Nutrient Requirements, [07.01.2022].

9 Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung e. V.: Supplement to the position of the German Nutrition Society regarding population groups with special nutritional needs, [07.01.2022].

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* Links with asterisks are so-called Affiliate linksIf you click on it and buy something, you automatically and actively support my work with, as I receive a small share of the proceeds - and of course nothing changes in the product price. Many thanks for your support and best regards, Christoph!

Julian Hölzer

Julian Hölzer

Hi, my name is Julian and I am a trained vegan nutritionist. In 2016 I started to get involved with veganism and quickly learned how big an impact our diet has on the environment and how diverse plant-based diets can be. That's why I want to inspire you to get involved with veganism too.

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