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Copper

Mixed Nuts

What does it do?

Copper is a mineral that works with iron to form healthy red blood cells. Copper helps to produce energy in cells and form a protective covering of your nerves and connective tissues.

What are the best food sources?

Copper is found in a wide variety of foods. The best sources of copper are organ meats (especially liver), seafood, nuts, seeds, wheat-bran cereals and whole-grain products.

What happens if you don’t get enough?

Copper deficiency is relatively rare in humans, but has been found in a few special cases. It has been observed in premature infants fed cow’s milk exclusively, infants recovering from malnutrition and patients with prolonged artificial (tube and intravenous) feedings. In these cases, the symptoms associated with copper deficiency include a specific anemia (that can be corrected by copper supplementation) and abnormally low levels of white blood cells.

What happens if you get too much?

Harmful effects from consuming too much copper from food are rare in healthy individuals. Cases of acute copper poisoning via contaminated beverages (both from contaminated water sources and storage in copper-containing containers) have resulted mostly in gastrointestinal illness in the form of abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. It is possible that long-term exposure to excessive amounts could cause liver damage, kidney failure, coma and death.

How much do you need?

The following table lists the recommended intake for healthy people based on current scientific information.

Life Stage Group Age Range Recommended Dietary Allowance/Adequate Intake Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL)
Infants 0-6 mo. Not determinable for infants due to lack of data on adverse effects in this age group and concern about inability to handle excess amounts. Source should be from food only to prevent high levels of intake.
Infants 7-12 mo. Not determinable for infants due to lack of data on adverse effects in this age group and concern about inability to handle excess amounts. Source should be from food only to prevent high levels of intake.
Children 1-3 yr. 1,000 micrograms/day
Children 4-8 yr. 3,000 micrograms/day
Males 9-13 yr. 5,000 micrograms/day
Males 14-18 yr. 8,000 micrograms/day
Males 19-30 yr. 10,000 micrograms/day
Males 31-50 yr. 10,000 micrograms/day
Males 51-70 yr. 10,000 micrograms/day
Males > 70 yr. 10,000 micrograms/day
Females 9-13 yr. 5,000 micrograms/day
Females 14-18 yr. 8,000 micrograms/day
Females 19-30 yr. 10,000 micrograms/day
Females 31-50 yr. 10,000 micrograms/day
Females 51-70 yr. 10,000 micrograms/day
Females > 70 yr. 10,000 micrograms/day
Pregnancy < 18 yr. 8,000 micrograms/day
Pregnancy 19-30 yr. 10,000 micrograms/day
Pregnancy 31-50 yr. 10,000 micrograms/day
Lactation < 18 yr. 8,000 micrograms/day
Lactation 19-30 yr. 10,000 micrograms/day
Lactation 31-50 yr. 10,000 micrograms/day
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