8 Symptoms and Causes of Copper Deficiency

Minerals play a pivotal role in the proper functioning of the body and the completion of essential physiological processes of the human body. The human body consists of 5 major minerals (calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and magnesium.) Apart from these 5 major minerals, approximately 72 trace minerals are necessarily needed for proper functioning. We need some minerals in greater quantities than other minerals. The requirement of minerals is fulfilled in the vicinity of a healthy diet. One such mineral in our body is Copper. The normal levels of copper in our body are in the range of 85 to 180 mcg/dL (micrograms per deciliter). Let us discuss copper in detail. 

Importance of Copper in the human body

Copper is essential for carrying out various functions of the human body. Copper plays an essential role in the production of blood cells like RBCs (Red Blood Cells) & WBCs (White Blood Cells.) This element is also crucial in maintaining heart rates. Blood pressure levels are also affected by copper levels in the body. It also plays a role in the development and neural functions. A healthy level of copper also renders healthy bones. Copper deficiency can result in a lot of complications. If you are worried about copper levels in your body, we have discussed the symptoms of copper deficiency. Let us look at the 8 symptoms of copper deficiency

1. Memory & Learning Affected

Copper plays a crucial role in brain functioning. Vital functions of the brain, like learning and memory, can be affected by copper deficiency in the body. A lot of enzymes make use of copper for the proper functioning of the brain. Copper deficiency can also interfere with the normal development of the brain. According to a study, people with Alzheimer’s disease(disrupted functions like memory and learning) have reduced levels of copper. 

2. Induces sensitivity to cold temperatures

The thyroid gland controls important activities like metabolism and heat production in the body. Minerals, including copper, play an important role in the proper functioning of the gland and its enzymes. Low copper levels are directly linked to decreased levels of thyroid hormones. Lowered levels of the hormones of the thyroid gland make a person sensitive to cold temperatures. 

3. Anemia

Anemia is a health condition in which the count of healthy RBCs (Red Blood Cells) is dropped. Fatigue, lower body temperature, pale skin, and weakness are a few symptoms indicative of anemia. Generally, anemia is caused by iron deficiency. But if the anemic conditions show no improvement if you regularly consume iron supplements, copper deficiency can be one of the possible reasons. Copper plays a crucial role in iron absorption, and copper enzymes are important for the growth of RBCs.

4. Compromised Immunity

Copper, as mentioned above, is important for the growth and maturation of hematopoietic cells. Hematopoietic cells include blood corpuscles like RBCs, WBCs, & platelets. Hence, copper deficiency can be linked with decreased levels of WBCs. The decreased levels of copper affect the maturation of healthy cells that help in combating infections. The lower levels of WBCs result in increased chances of infections in the body. Lowered levels of copper result in reduced nonspecific immune responses.

Along with it, it also affects the responses of humoral and cell-mediated immunity. WBCs play an important role in the body by fighting infections and pathogens. Apart from increased risks of infection, it is also linked with an elevated mortality rate. If you are getting sick very frequently, copper deficiency is one of the probable causes of it. 

5. Loss of vision

In one study, a 35-Year-old woman lost her vision after surgery. Once her copper levels were restored, she regained her vision and improved in her condition. Vision loss can be said to be a symptom of copper deficiency in the long term. The condition mentioned in the study was optic neuropathy, which is the inflammation of nerves responsible for visionary function.

Vision loss is observed, especially in some specific surgeries like gastric bypass surgery. Gastric bypass surgery leads to an overall deficiency of some other nutrients as well. We have to keep in mind that vision loss is not a reliable symptom of copper deficiency. There are some reports that prove copper intake does not improve the conditions of vision. 

6. Graying of Hair

Melanin is a biological pigment that renders the color of skin and hair. Copper is an integral molecule of this pigment. Copper also acts as a catalyst in the enzymatic reaction of the production of melanin. A study also proved & showed how copper deficiency and premature graying of hair are related. Maintaining moderate levels of copper in your body can help you in fighting against the premature graying of hair. A diet that is rich in copper can be used to combat the problem. Copper supplements, too, are equally good for balancing out the copper levels in the body. 

7. Weakness and Fatigue caused by copper deficiency

If you are tired extremely, very often, this can indicate a copper deficiency in your system. Fatigue and weakness can be linked to anemia. As we mentioned above, how copper deficiency can result in a reduction in RBCs in the human system. RBCs transport oxygen to the body, which is important for carrying out the normal functioning of the body.

Reduced amounts of oxygen will ultimately cause feeling tired in basic activities. The role of copper is also essential in the production of ATPs. ATPs, in simple terms, are the basic units of energy in biological systems. Lack of sufficient copper amounts in the body will eventually affect the energy levels as well.

8. Osteoporosis: Weakening & Brittling of bones

Osteoporosis involves a loss of bone density which makes the bones weak and brittle. The weakening of bones can be indicated by frequent fractures, height loss, or back pains. Much research confirms the association of copper deficiency with reduced bone mass density & osteoporosis.

The mechanism of how copper affects the health of bones is still undiscovered, but the abnormalities of bone are somehow linked with the copper levels in the serum. With the help of copper, the crosslinking inside the bones is enhanced, which efficiently strengthens the bones.  Some sources also claim the association of enhanced functioning of osteoblasts. Osteoblasts are cells that form the bone cells after maturation.

What are some possible causes of copper deficiency?

Now that we have discussed this in detail, how can we look out for deficiency of copper in the body? Let us get an insight into what might be causing the deficiency.

1. Malabsorption

Ineffective absorption in the gastrointestinal tract is the most common cause of copper deficiency. Absorption of copper takes place in the stomach and part of the small intestine. Surgeries are the leading cause of malabsorption in adults.

2. Foregut Surgeries

These surgeries are performed to treat conditions of the digestive tract. To avoid any linked complications in the future, you are advised to screen the copper levels in your body. The most prominent complications are linked with neurology and hematology.

3. Dietary deficit

Not consuming a proper and healthy diet might lead to not only copper deficiency but a wide range of deficiencies in your body. To lead a healthy life, you are recommended to consume a healthy diet.

4. Blocked absorption of copper

Considerably high amounts of Zinc are associated with interference caused by the absorption of copper in the gut.

5. Infant Diarrhea

If an infant suffers from persistent diarrhea, it is likely that copper absorption was not efficient, which might be a possible cause of the copper deficiency.

6. Gastrointestinal diseases

Some gastrointestinal diseases can also be blamed for copper deficiency in your body. Some of the examples that can lead to copper deficiency are Cystic fibrosis, Short gut syndrome, and Celiac Disease.

7. Protein deficiency

If an infant is fed only cow’s milk in his childhood, it is likely to result in protein deficiency. It can also lead to not receiving a moderate amount of copper required by the body.

8. Menkes Disease

It is a rare genetic disease linked with copper deficiency. Most of the children die before turning three. Death is caused because normal development is disrupted.

When to not take copper supplements?

Copper supplements are an effective way to overcome copper deficiency. But they can interact in certain cases and cause harmful results. Avoid taking copper supplements if you are intaking any form of birth control method. Medicines used to relieve pain interact with copper, and their activity can be enhanced. If you are planning to start copper supplements, it is best to discuss it with your doctor first.


Copper has a lot of benefits and importance in the human body. Even if it is needed in minute amounts, it is equally crucial for the proper functioning of the body. Copper is obtained mainly from the diet. Rarely can a human get a copper deficiency, but if you do, it is recommended that you talk to your doctor about the possible causes of dropped levels of copper in your body.

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