Zinc and Copper Relationship
DISCLAIMER: This article has been written for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment
Although all essential vitamins and minerals work together as an interconnected web in the human body, understanding the relationship between zinc and copper is vital for sustaining good health because both act as antagonists. This means despite zinc and copper working hand-in-hand for many important bodily functions, if one's level becomes too high it may cause the other’s level too low or vice versa. Imbalances of zinc copper ratio may result in various health issues such as anxiety, fatigue, depression, and pain.
Therefore, while the human body requires optimal levels of both minerals zinc as well as copper, it’s also important to maintain the proper balance between the two. Here we’ll discuss everything you need to know about the zinc and copper relationship in the body. So, let’s get started.
Table of contents
- What is zinc and what does it do in the human body?
- What is copper and what does it do in the human body?
- Why maintaining a healthy balance between zinc and copper is important
- What is copper toxicity?
- Symptoms of copper toxicity
- How to regain balance between zinc and copper in the body
- Final words
What is zinc and what does it do in the human body?
Zinc is an essential trace element found in many animal and plant sources including red meat, sea fishes, poultry, beans, chickpeas, and whole grains.
Zinc plays important roles in various physiological processes in the body and is closely involved in growth and development, immune response, antioxidant actions, DNA coding, wound healing, and developing a sense of smell and taste.
The deficiency of zinc in the body has been linked to diverse health conditions such as metabolic disorders and birth defects, and sometimes even linked to autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
What is copper and what does it do in the human body?
Copper is also a vital trace element that is required for overall body functioning in humans. Though it’s less known than zinc, it's no less important. Food sources of copper include dark leafy greens, beans, nuts, potatoes, and various organ meats such as livers and kidneys.
Copper acts as an essential cofactor in many biochemical processes and enzymes in the human body, particularly those that are involved in iron balance, immune function, and antioxidant defense. It’s a vital component in liver tissue, kidney tissue, brain tissue, and hair.
Excess levels of copper have been described to have toxic effects on the body and may contribute to the development of various serious health conditions such as osteoporosis, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), and mental declines that may lead to a range of moods and behavioral disorders.
Why maintaining a healthy balance between zinc and copper is important
The optimal functioning of the human body depends on a state of balance called homeostasis which is a very subtle balance between fluids, minerals, and vitamins within the human body.
A proper balance between zinc and copper is essential for the proper functioning of the human body. If they are imbalanced or deficient, they may lead to certain serious health consequences.
Zinc and copper work together in many important bodily processes such as healthy digestion, nervous system function, and immune response among others. Apart from their individual roles in the body, the ratio between zinc and copper is also vital for maintaining optimal health. Imbalances between zinc and copper may have a huge impact on physical as well as mental health.
While elevated zinc and depressed copper as well as vice versa both can occur, the reverse, excess levels of copper with low levels of zinc are far more common. Generally, the ratio of zinc to copper should range from 8:1 to 12:1 within the human body. An imbalanced ratio between zinc and copper may result in various health consequences including inflammation, poor sleep, decreased cognitive function, and even certain cardiovascular problems like heart failure.
A 2014 study published in the Clinical Research in Cardiology found increased copper levels and decreased zinc levels are common in both acute heart failure (AHF) as well as chronic heart failure (CHF).
What is copper toxicity?
As discussed earlier, elevated levels of copper are far more common than copper deficiency because of the abundance of copper in the environment and regular exposure to various copper-containing substances including birth control pills, copper water pipes, copper IUDs, and dental fillings.
Besides, excess stress reduces zinc levels and thus, may help increase copper levels compared to zinc levels. These elevated copper levels may negatively impact the human body which is commonly known as copper toxicity or copper overload.
Symptoms of copper toxicity
Copper toxicity may produce a variety of symptoms in the human body, including, but aren’t limited to:
- Fatigued body but hyperactive mind
- Frequent bruising
- Depression, frequent mood swings, and behavioral changes
- Painful periods and premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
- Frequency viral infections such as flues and common colds
- Cravings for copper-containing foods like chocolates and nuts
How to regain balance between zinc and copper in the body
Regaining balance between zinc and copper takes a considerable time because working too quickly may have some adverse effects on the body that are worse than the existing health issues. However, there are certain steps that one can consider to get started.
- Limiting copper exposure and foods such as yeast, mushrooms, and soy
- Reducing stress levels by adopting regular exercise and anti-stress techniques
- Taking supplements that can help lower copper levels such as vitamin A, B6, and C.
- Increasing zinc intake through foods and zinc supplements
The proper balance between zinc and copper is vital for overall bodily functions. Relatively increased levels of copper than zinc may cause copper toxicity which has been linked to many health consequences like inflammation, fatigue, and mood disorders.
Limiting copper exposure and increasing zinc intake through zinc-rich foods or zinc supplements may help a person regain a healthy zinc-copper balance in the body.