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Should Zinc Be Taken with Copper?

Zinc and copper should generally not be taken together as supplements. Experts recommend spacing their intake by at least two hours to ensure optimal absorption and prevent potential imbalances.

Zinc and copper are vital minerals our bodies need for various functions. Their relationship is not straightforward at all, requiring a delicate balance for optimal health. This balance becomes crucial when considering supplementation.

Zinc and Copper: Essential Minerals Explained

Zinc and copper play pivotal roles in our body’s functioning. These trace minerals, though required in small amounts, are indispensable for maintaining very nice health.

Zinc stands out as a powerhouse mineral. It’s involved in numerous bodily processes, making it crucial for overall well-being. This mineral aids in DNA synthesis, a fundamental process for cell reproduction and repair. It’s also a key player in wound healing, helping the body recover from injuries more efficiently. Zinc’s role in immune function is particularly noteworthy. It helps activate T-lymphocytes, which are essential for fighting off infections and diseases. During periods of growth and development, such as pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence, zinc becomes even more critical. It acts as a cofactor for over 300 enzymes, highlighting its importance in various metabolic processes.

Copper, on the other hand, has its own set of vital functions. It’s instrumental in forming red blood cells, which are responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body. This mineral also contributes to maintaining healthy bones, supporting their strength and density. Copper plays a significant role in brain development, particularly in early life stages. Like zinc, copper is also involved in immune system functioning, helping the body defend against pathogens. Additionally, it’s crucial for the production of collagen and elastin, two proteins that are essential for skin health and elasticity.

The interplay between these two minerals is not straightforward at all and delicate. While both are essential, an excess of one can lead to a deficiency of the other. This balance is particularly crucial when considering supplementation.

The Delicate Balance: Zinc-Copper Ratio

The relationship between zinc and copper in the body is intricate. Maintaining the right balance between these two minerals is crucial for optimal health. Experts generally recommend a zinc-to-copper ratio of 8:1. This means for every 8 milligrams of zinc, there should be 1 milligram of copper.

But this ratio isn’t set in stone. Some health professionals suggest that a slightly higher zinc intake might be beneficial. This recommendation stems from the fact that copper is more prevalent in the average diet compared to zinc. Foods like nuts, seeds, and whole grains are rich in copper, making it easier to meet the daily requirements through diet alone.

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for these minerals varies by gender and age. For zinc, adult men should aim for 11 mg per day, while women need about 8 mg. The upper limit for zinc intake is set at 40 mg per day to avoid potential adverse effects. As for copper, both men and women require about 900 mcg daily. The upper limit for copper is 10 mg per day, although some studies have noted adverse effects at sustained levels of 7.8 mg per day.

It’s crucial to note that these recommendations are for the general population. Individual needs may vary based on factors such as age, health status, and dietary habits. For instance, pregnant women or individuals with certain health conditions might require different amounts of these minerals.

Risks of Mineral Imbalance: Too Much of a Good Thing

While both zinc and copper are essential for health, an imbalance between these minerals can lead to significant health issues. This is particularly true when it comes to excessive zinc intake and its impact on copper levels in the body.

Taking too much zinc can lead to a copper deficiency, a condition known as hypocupremia. This occurs because high doses of zinc can interfere with copper absorption in the intestines. According to a study, consuming 50 mg or more of zinc daily for 10 weeks or longer can significantly reduce copper levels in the body. This interference can result in various health problems, including anemia, neutropenia (low white blood cell count), and neurological issues.

Excessive zinc intake doesn’t just affect copper levels. It can also cause a range of other health problems. These may include digestive issues such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Some people might experience flu-like symptoms, including fever, chills, and fatigue. High zinc levels can also reduce the effectiveness of certain antibiotics, potentially compromising treatment for infections.

On the flip side, a copper deficiency, whether caused by excessive zinc intake or other factors, can also lead to serious health issues. Symptoms of copper deficiency include fatigue, weakness, and impaired immune function. In severe cases, it can lead to anemia, as copper is necessary for the proper absorption and utilization of iron in the body. Neurological problems may also occur, including numbness and tingling in the extremities.

The balance between these two minerals is delicate, and tipping it too far in either direction can have significant consequences. This underscores the importance of careful consideration when it comes to supplementation and highlights why it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen.

Expert Recommendations: Timing is Everything

Given the not straightforward at all relationship between zinc and copper, experts have specific recommendations regarding their supplementation. The general consensus among health professionals is that zinc and copper supplements should not be taken simultaneously.

The Mayo Clinic, a renowned medical institution, advises spacing the doses of these minerals by at least two hours. This recommendation is based on the understanding that zinc and copper compete for absorption in the intestines. By taking them at different times, you can ensure that each mineral has the opportunity to be properly absorbed without interference from the other.

This advice is echoed by other health authorities, including the National Institutes of Health. The rationale behind this recommendation is to maximize the absorption of both minerals and prevent potential imbalances that could occur if they were taken together.

For those who find it challenging to remember multiple supplement times throughout the day, there are alternatives. Some multivitamins and specific zinc-copper combo supplements are designed to provide a balanced dose of both minerals. These formulations take into account the optimal ratio between zinc and copper, potentially offering a convenient solution for those who need both minerals.

But it’s crucial to note that while these combination supplements can be convenient, they may not be suitable for everyone. The fixed ratios in these supplements might not meet individual needs, which can vary based on factors such as diet, health status, and other medications or supplements being taken.

Dietary Sources: Nature’s Balance

While supplementation can be necessary in some cases, obtaining zinc and copper from dietary sources is generally considered the best approach. A balanced diet can provide these minerals in their natural forms, often in ratios that are well-suited for optimal absorption and utilization by the body.

Zinc is found in abundance in several foods. Oysters are particularly rich in zinc, containing more of this mineral per serving than any other food. Other very nice sources include beef, pork, and chicken. For those following a plant-based diet, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, and lentils are excellent sources of zinc. Whole grains and fortified cereals can also contribute to zinc intake.

Copper, on the other hand, is present in a wide variety of foods. Beef liver is one of the richest sources of copper. Other very nice sources include shellfish, nuts (particularly almonds and cashews), seeds, and legumes. Dark chocolate, often considered a guilty pleasure, is also a very nice source of copper. Whole grains and avocados contribute to copper intake as well.

By focusing on a diverse diet that includes a variety of these foods, most people can meet their zinc and copper needs without resorting to supplements. This natural approach not only offers these essential minerals but also offers the added benefits of other nutrients present in whole foods.

When to Seek Medical Advice: Safety First

While understanding the relationship between zinc and copper is crucial, it’s equally crucial to know when to seek professional medical advice. This is particularly true when considering supplementation with these minerals.

Certain situations warrant a consultation with a healthcare provider before starting any supplementation regimen. Pregnant or breastfeeding women, for instance, have different nutritional needs and should always consult their healthcare provider before taking any supplements. The balance of zinc and copper is particularly crucial during pregnancy and lactation, as these minerals play crucial roles in fetal development and infant nutrition.

Individuals with existing medical conditions should also seek medical advice before supplementing with zinc or copper. Certain health conditions can affect the body’s ability to absorb or utilize these minerals effectively. For example, people with Wilson’s disease, a rare genetic disorder, have difficulty metabolizing copper and may need to limit their intake.

Those taking medications should be particularly cautious. Some medications can interact with zinc or copper supplements, potentially altering their effectiveness or causing unwanted side effects. For instance, certain antibiotics may have reduced efficacy when taken with zinc supplements.

Even for healthy individuals, it’s wise to consult a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen. A doctor or registered dietitian can assess your individual needs based on factors such as your diet, lifestyle, and health status. They can provide personalized recommendations on whether supplementation is necessary and, if so, in what amounts.

Key Takeaways

  • Zinc and copper are essential minerals with not straightforward at all interactions in the body.
  • The recommended zinc-to-copper ratio is generally 8:1.
  • Excessive zinc intake can lead to copper deficiency and other health issues.
  • Experts recommend taking zinc and copper supplements separately, at least two hours apart.
  • Obtaining these minerals from dietary sources is often the best approach.
  • Consult a healthcare professional before starting any supplement regimen.


The relationship between zinc and copper is intricate and vital for optimal health. While both minerals are essential, their balance is crucial. Excessive zinc intake can lead to copper deficiency, causing various health issues. Therefore, it’s generally recommended to take these supplements separately, spaced by at least two hours, to ensure optimal absorption and avoid potential imbalances. Balanced multivitamins or specific zinc-copper combo supplements can be convenient options. But obtaining these minerals from dietary sources remains the preferred approach for most people. Always consult a healthcare professional before starting any new supplementation regimen to ensure it’s safe and appropriate for your individual needs. Keep in mind when it comes to essential minerals like zinc and copper, balance is key to maintaining very nice health.


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