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Copper or Zinc Deficiency

By Abigail Adams

Copper and zinc are minerals the body needs for various functions in the body. Zinc promotes good health and assists with wound healing. Copper helps form red blood cells. Most people get adequate amounts of these minerals through the diet, but some people may experience a deficiency in zinc or copper, but these conditions are not common in the United States. Treatment for a mineral deficiency usually includes dietary changes or supplementation.


Not eating enough foods rich in copper or zinc may cause a deficiency. Most people get enough of both minerals by eating a balanced diet. The recommended dietary intake of copper is 900 mcg per day for adults, according to MedlinePlus. Men need 11 mg and women need 8 mg of zinc daily, but pregnant or breastfeeding women require larger amounts of the mineral to help the baby grow and develop properly, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements.


A zinc deficiency may cause a condition called pica, which causes a person to crave nonfood items, such as ice, dirt and starch. Additional symptoms of a zinc deficiency include slow growth in children, impotence for men, diarrhea, decreased appetite and sores on the skin. Copper deficiency may cause medical conditions such as anemia and osteoporosis.


Increasing dietary intake of foods rich in copper and zinc may help improve the deficiency. Drinking water may contain copper because of leaching from copper pipes. Dried fruits, such as prunes, dark leafy greens, beans, organ meats, cocoa and whole-grain foods are good dietary sources of copper. Foods rich in zinc include oysters, red meat, seafood and fortified breakfast cereals. Each mineral is available as a dietary supplement. Always consult a health care professional before taking any vitamin supplements.


Taking a zinc supplement to treat a zinc deficiency may cause a deficiency in copper because the supplement may partially block the absorption of copper. Taking 150 mg of zinc per day for two years may cause a copper deficiency, according to MedlinePlus. Additionally, taking large amounts of vitamin C may block copper absorption. Using nasal sprays containing zinc may cause a loss in the ability to smell.

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