June 13, 2013
Why you don't need to take copper when
you’re taking supplemental zinc
Rules get broken in medicine all the time. Here's a timed-honored nutritional rule that looks like it needs to be reexamined.

It has to do with zinc. Ever since I first learned about giving zinc supplements to patients, they warned me to make sure and give it with copper. Why? Because zinc and copper compete for some very important antioxidant enzyme systems. If you give too much zinc without giving copper, it will result in an imbalance of these enzymes causing excessive free radical damage.

Now a new study shows that at the standard lower zinc doses that I typically use and recommend, this precaution isn't necessary. This is good news for anyone taking zinc supplements.

Here's how they made the discovery. Researchers used healthy six- to eight-year-old boys in Ontario, Canada for the study. Ten of them took 5 mg of zinc per day. Nine took 10 mg. Eight took 15 mg. And 10 of them took a placebo tablet. After four months, the researchers looked at what happened to the copper levels in these kids.

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They did the traditional testing for copper levels, plasma copper, and ceruloplasmin activity. But they also looked at the function of superoxide dismutase. This is a critically important copper-dependent antioxidant enzyme. Happily, they found no changes in any of the copper evaluations from the zinc supplements.

So what does this mean? It means that you can take and give your kids up to 15 mg of zinc without any additional copper.

By the way, I routinely check both zinc and copper levels and other mineral levels in all of my sick patients. Without question, zinc is the most commonly depressed mineral I find. Common signs of zinc deficiency are acne, frequent infections, learning disabilities, decreased taste and appetite, decreased brain function, and essential fatty acid deficiencies.

Finding your Real Cures,


Bertinato J, Simpson JR, Sherrard L, et al. Zinc supplementation does not alter sensitive biomarkers of copper status in healthy boys. J Nutr. 2013 Mar;143(3):284-9.

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