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What Are the Benefits of Copper Supplements?

By Sylvie Tremblay, MSc

An essential mineral, copper has long been known to play a role in human health -- its use dates back to 400 B.C., when Hippocrates is said to have employed it as a treatment for a variety of disorders. Taking copper supplements can help ensure that you get the 900 micrograms of copper daily needed to prevent deficiency, according to the Institute of Medicine, and the mineral offers a number of potential health benefits. Copper supplements, however, can also cause side effects and interact with medications, so you should only take them under the supervision of a doctor.

Prevents Copper Deficiency

Taking copper supplements helps prevent or treat copper deficiency. That can occur if you aren't getting enough copper in your diet or you take medication that reduces your body's copper levels. Copper deficiency negatively affects your blood cells. It causes anemia -- a condition that occurs when your red blood cells can't supply enough oxygen to your tissues. Low copper levels also have the potential to harm your nervous system and reduce skin pigmentation.

Supports Immune Function

Taking copper supplements plays a beneficial role in immune function because you need copper for healthy white blood cells -- the cell type tasked with seeking out, identifying and destroying pathogens. Low copper levels lower your white blood count, leaving you vulnerable to infection. Taking copper supplements not only helps maintain healthy white blood cell numbers, but it also helps your cells better engulf pathogens, explains the Linus Pauling Institute.

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Maintains Bone Health

Taking copper supplements under medical supervision can help maintain the health of your bones. Copper activates lysyl oxidase, an enzyme your cells need to make collagen, a component of healthy bone tissue. It also has a beneficial effect on bone density. You naturally lose bone density as you age, but taking copper supplements can slow bone density loss, explains the Linus Pauling Institute. Supplements also prevent low copper levels, which are linked to a higher rate of hip fractures in the elderly. The Linus Pauling Institute notes that the relationship between supplemental copper and bone health needs further investigation, but taking supplements might offer some benefits.

Considerations and Potential Side Effects

Make sure you consult your doctor before you start taking copper supplements because they can interact with certain medications or cause side effects if you take too large a dose. Copper overdose can cause digestive upset, dizziness or leave you with a metallic taste in your mouth, while copper toxicity -- a severe overdose -- can prove fatal. In addition, copper supplements interact with several medications, including birth control pills and pain medications, and it can prevent your body from properly absorbing a medication used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Your physician can determine whether you need copper supplements, as well as help set a dose to minimize side effects.

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