Taking Zinc? Balance It With Copper!

January 24, 2022 | Dr. Linda J. Dobberstein, DC, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

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 Taking Zinc? Balance It With Copper!
Are you taking a zinc supplement? Be sure it’s balanced with copper. At Wellness Resources, we have many specialty formulas that balance nutrients in the right amounts for optimum health. Sometimes when you take isolated nutrients, it can lead to unwanted reductions or excess in other nutrients. This can be the case with zinc and copper.

Importance of Zinc


Zinc, a trace mineral, is commonly lacking in the Western diet and plant-based diets. It can also be readily depleted by several medications. An increased need occurs with puberty and growth, activities that increase perspiration, reproduction and fertility, immune fortification. It is essential for sense of taste and smell, eyesight, hearing, recovery from illness and injury and much more. You can learn more at Zinc Essential for Immunity, Sense of Smell, and More.

Use of supplemental zinc is prevalent. You can find it in many types of supplements, over-the-counter products, lozenges and cough drops, designer drinks, and in personal care products. Supplement levels of zinc range from a few milligrams up to 100 mg or more per day. The minimum recommended intake for men is 11 mg and 8 mg for women per day.

The Zinc/ Copper Ratio


Zinc and copper have a teeter-totter relationship in your body. You need more zinc than copper, but with long-term supplementation, you generally need both in a healthy ratio. In mineral supplements or a multiple vitamin/mineral product, it is recommended to have a ratio of zinc to copper (Zn:Cu) of 8:1 to 10:1. A combination trace mineral product will often use 25-30 mg of zinc to 3 mg of copper per serving.

Many individuals, however, take high doses of zinc by itself for months or years without a lab test check on copper or zinc levels. As a result of high zinc intake, copper levels may unknowingly become lower than needed, which may negatively impact your health.

Copper: Small Need but Mighty Important


Copper is a trace mineral used for many things in human physiology. It is especially important for making white and red blood cells and platelets, nerve-muscle connections, nerve conduction, neurotransmitters and brain function that affect speech, movement, balance, sensations, vision, coordination, mood and motivation, bone marrow, and connective tissues integrity with bones, tendons, ligaments, and even blood vessel flexibility and durability.

Copper is necessary for heart function, management of cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and prostaglandin levels for the heart and circulatory system. Copper is needed for iron absorption. It is involved with brain development, immune system function, and several antioxidant enzymes like superoxide dismutase. Copper is an important trace mineral involved with mitochondrial function, where balanced intake is essential.

Copper and Diet


Copper is found in a wide variety of foods. Rich sources include beef liver, shellfish, unsweetened baking chocolate or dark chocolate (70 - 100% cacao), potatoes, mushrooms, seeds and nuts, with lesser amounts in whole grains and vegetables.

Fresh vegetables provide copper, while canned vegetables provide very little. Fiber, phytates, lectins, and other compounds in grains, soy products, and the use of food ripening chemicals and techniques also decrease the bioavailability of copper in foods. Protein-rich foods aid copper absorption.

Low salt diets and high fructose intake may also affect copper absorption. Adequate salt in the diet helps copper absorption, whereas high fructose intake competes against copper absorption. High fructose foods include high fructose corn syrup, honey, agave syrup, invert sugar, maple-flavored syrup, molasses, palm or coconut syrup, sorghum, fruit juice, apples, grapes, watermelon, asparagus, peas, and zucchini.

Individuals with underlying gastrointestinal disorders, or those who have undergone gastric bypass may have poor copper absorption.

Since the 1930’s, copper intake in the Western diet has declined. Copper intake needs are slowly gaining more recognition. Now is a good time to think about your copper status with the zinc supplement you have been taking.

Copper Intake


The basic Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) with copper for children, birth to 13 years is 200-700 mcg. For teenagers and adults, the RDA is 900 mcg and higher with pregnancy and breast feeding. The upper limit of copper intake for children 1-3 years is 1000 mcg, 4-8 years 3000 mcg, 9-13 years 5000 mcg, 14-18 years 8000 mcg, and 19+ years is 10,000 mcg per day. 1000 mcg/microgram equals 1 mg/milligram.

Copper and Other Nutrients


Copper needs to be in balance with other nutrients. Insufficient copper intake can make it look like you lack vitamin B12 and folate. Excess and insufficient iron intake can also affect your copper status. Long-term or mega-dose use of vitamin C, cysteine/n-acetyl cysteine (NAC), and molybdenum, a trace mineral, may compete against copper absorption.

Elevated Copper


It is essential to mention that copper can also build-up in the body for various reasons. Some individuals have genetic defects, i.e. Wilson’s disease, that affects how the body processes copper. In those circumstances, copper builds up and damages the liver. Other rare copper disorders from gene mutations exist as well.

More commonly, oral contraceptives may cause excess copper levels in your body, which can cause other health risks. Medical testing is essential in these circumstances and supplemental copper intake may need to be avoided.

Balanced Nutrients


A well-balanced multiple vitamin or a trace mineral supplement provides essential nutrients that can be easily missed in your diet. However, if you supplement with high dose individual nutrients like zinc, iron, vitamin C or NAC, have poor digestion and malabsorption concerns, or have other imbalances of iron, vitamin B12, or folate, etc. it may be helpful to get lab work to evaluate your nutrient levels. This can help you optimize your nutritional status.

For general zinc-copper support, Wellness Resources supplements like Daily Energy Multiple Vitamin and Strengthener Plus provide zinc and copper in a balanced ratio. At Wellness Resources, we formulate our supplements with nutrients in balanced amounts and optimize for absorption and health results.

Nutrition is complex. Don’t settle for a product that you guessed on and wonder if things are working okay or not. Wellness Resources is here to help.

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