9 Signs and Symptoms of Copper Deficiency

Copper is an essential mineral that has many roles in the body. It helps maintain a healthy metabolism, promotes strong and healthy bones and ensures your nervous system works properly. While copper deficiency is rare, it seems that fewer people today are getting enough of the mineral. In fact, up to 25% of people in America and Canada may not be meeting the recommended copper intake (1).

Not consuming enough copper may eventually lead to deficiency, which can be dangerous.

Other causes of copper deficiency are celiac disease, surgeries affecting the digestive tract and consuming too much zinc, as zinc competes with copper to be absorbed.

Here are 9 signs and symptoms of copper deficiency.

1. Fatigue and Weakness

Copper deficiency may be one of the many causes of fatigue and weakness.

Copper is essential for absorbing iron from the gut (2).

When copper levels are low, the body may absorb less iron. This can cause iron deficiency anemia, a condition in which the body is unable to carry enough oxygen to its tissues. A lack of oxygen can make you weaker and feel tired more easily.

Several animal studies have shown that copper deficiency may cause anemia (2, 3).

Additionally, cells use copper to generate adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the body’s main source of energy. This means copper deficiency could affect your energy levels, which again promotes fatigue and weakness (4, 5).

Fortunately, eating a copper-rich diet can help fix anemia caused by copper deficiency (6).


2. Frequent Sickness

People who get sick often may have copper deficiency.

That’s because copper plays an important role in maintaining a healthy immune system.

When copper levels are low, your body may struggle to make immune cells. This could drastically reduce your white blood cell count, compromising your body’s ability to combat infection (7).

Studies have shown that copper deficiency can dramatically reduce the production of neutrophils, which are white blood cells that act as the body’s first line of defence (8, 9).

Fortunately, eating more copper-rich foods can help reverse these effects.


3. Weak and Brittle Bones

Osteoporosis is a condition characterised by weak and brittle bones.

It becomes more common with age and has been linked to copper deficiency (10).

For example, an analysis of eight studies including over 2,100 people found that those with osteoporosis had lower levels of copper than healthy adults (10).

Copper is involved in processes that create cross-links inside your bones. These cross-links ensure bones are healthy and strong (11, 12, 13).

What’s more, copper encourages the body to make more osteoblasts, which are cells that help reshape and strengthen bone tissue (14, 15).


4. Problems With Memory and Learning

Copper deficiency could make it harder to learn and remember.

That’s because copper plays an important role in brain function and development.

Copper is used by enzymes that help supply energy to the brain, aid the brain’s defence system and relay signals to the body (16).