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Copper is a trace element that is essential for most animals, including humans. Copper is utilized by most cells as a component of enzymes involved in energy production and in the protection of cells from free radical damage. Copper is also involved with an enzyme that strengthens connective tissue and in brain neurotransmitters.

Deficiencies: The symptoms of a copper deficiency are similar to iron deficiency anemia. A lifetime of marginal diet copper in humans is thought to lead to heart disease. Overt symptoms in adults are rare.

Food sources: Copper is found in foods such as nuts, shellfish, organ meats, and legumes. Grains, grain products, and chocolate have appreciable levels of copper. While these food items are good to excellent sources of copper, the absolute amount of copper absorbed may be influenced by other dietary components. Copper absorption may be decreased by excess dietary iron or zinc. Conversely, too much copper may cause an iron deficiency. Vitamin C supplementation results in decreased copper status.

Dietary Reference Intakes for Copper

Recommended Intakes for Individuals*
Age Male Female Pregnant Lactating
1-3 yrs.340 µg340 µg
4-8440 µg440 µg
9-13700 µg700 µg
14-18890 µg890 µg1000 µg1300 µg
19-30900 µg900 µg1000 µg1300 µg
31-50900 µg900 µg1000 µg1300 µg
51-70900 µg900 µg
70+900 µg900 µg

*These Recommended Dietary Allowances are set to meet the needs of almost all (97 to 98 percent) individuals in the groups listed in the table above.

Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL)**
Age Male Female Pregnant Lactating
1-3 yrs.1000 µg1000 µg
4-83000 µg3000 µg
9-135000 µg5000 µg
14-188000 µg8000 µg8000 µg8000 µg
19-5010000 µg10000 µg10000 µg10000 µg
51-7010000 µg10000 µg
70+10000 µg10000 µg

**UL = The maximum level of daily nutrient intake that is likely to pose no risk of adverse effects. Unless otherwise specified, the UL represents total intake from food, water, and supplements.

Source: Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, National Academies

Vitamin, Mineral, and Nutrient Reference Values

The values in the label shown below are the targets used to determine Daily Value percentages that appear on the Nutrition Facts labels on foods sold in the U.S. These numbers are meant to approximate the nutrients needed for the average person consuming 2000 calories per day. Click any of the vitamin or nutrient names below to learn more about the importance of each element, and to see detailed dietary allowances (the Dietary Reference Intake values) for specific population groups.

Daily Value***
  65 g
Total Fat
  20 g
  Saturated Fat
  Trans Fat
  300 mg
  2400 mg
  25 g
  Dietary Fiber
  50 g
  5000 IU
Vitamin A
  60 mg
Vitamin C
  1 g
  18 mg
Daily Value***
  400 IU
Vitamin D
  30 IU
Vitamin E
  80 µg
Vitamin K
  1.5 mg
  1.7 mg
  20 mg
  2 mg
Vitamin B6
  400 µg
Total Folate
  6 µg
Vitamin B12
  1 g
  400 mg
  15 mg
  70 µg
  2 mg
  2 mg
  3.5 g

***Daily Value recommendations are based on a 2000-calorie diet. Recommendations for individuals will vary depending on sex, age, weight, and other factors.


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