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The Effects of Too Little Copper in the Body

By Sara Ipatenco ; Updated July 18, 2017

Copper is a trace mineral present in all of the tissues in your body. You must get sufficient amounts of copper from your diet to prevent becoming deficient. Certain copper deficiencies may also require medical treatment. Knowing the warning signs and consequences of a copper deficiency will enable you to seek medical attention and determine a proper treatment so you are able to restore your health.

Importance of Copper

Copper is a trace mineral that works with iron to help your body produce healthy and strong red blood cells. Healthy red blood cells are better able to transport oxygen to all the parts of your body so that each system works efficiently and properly. You also need copper in your diet because it aids in the health of your blood vessels, bones, nerves and immune system. Infants need between 200 and 220 mcg each day. Children between the ages of one and three require 340 mcg, children between the ages of four and eight require 440 mcg and children ages nine to 13 need 700 mcg each day. Children between the ages of 14 and 18 require 890 mcg per day, and anyone over the age of 18 needs to get 900 mcg on a daily basis.

Copper Deficiency

A copper deficiency can occur if you do not consume an adequate intake of the mineral. The Merck Manual notes that this is not common, but certain conditions can contribute to a copper deficiency. Chronic infantile diarrhea is one cause, as well as kwashiokor, which is a severe protein malabsorption problem. Other malabsorption problems and excess zinc intake can also lead to a copper deficiency. Being deficient in copper can also lead to anemia and osteoporosis.

Inherited Copper Deficiency

Menkes Syndrome is a copper deficiency that affects male babies who inherit a mutant X-linked gene, notes the Merck Manual. If a male baby is born with Menkes Syndrome, he will exhibit symptoms including vomiting, diarrhea, hypopigmentation and bone problems. He will also likely be mentally retarded and have kinky hair. Early diagnosis and treatment is essential, but many babies with Menkes Syndrome often have neurological development problems.

Foods with Copper

If you have a copper deficiency, your doctor will likely recommend a copper supplement or other medication. Including copper rich foods in your diet can help prevent an acquired copper deficiency. Add shellfish, oysters, whole grains, beans, nuts, potatoes and organ meats, such as liver and kidneys to your diet. Leafy green vegetables, dried fruits, cocoa, pepper and yeast will also supply some copper, the National Institutes of Health notes.

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