Expert Advice From Louise O’Connor, Australian Naturopath + Wellness Coach { About the book }

Can Copper Harm Thyroid Health? Here’s What You Need To Know.

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Can Copper Harm Thyroid HealthCopper is often added to multivitamin mineral supplements, joint health formulas, and even some thyroid health products. But have you ever stopped to wonder..can copper harm thyroid health?

Could taking copper be unnecessary, even risky? Here’s what you need to know about copper.

Firstly, did you know your body strives to maintain an optimal zinc-copper balance?

Problems arise when copper becomes elevated. Copper overload is a serious concern as this metal ion is toxic in excess.

Additionally, too much copper blocks zinc activity. The reason?

Copper is a major antagonist to zinc.

For instance, the most effective way to lower excess copper is to supplement with zinc. Health practitioners who recognize this important copper-zinc relationship prescribe zinc to lower excess copper. This is a straightforward strategy once you understand zinc is the primary antagonist to copper.

What You Need to Know About Copper in Supplements

+ Generally speaking taking a copper supplement is rarely necessary. It’s extremely likely you are getting enough copper from your diet.

+ The inorganic copper found in supplements is very different to what is naturally found in food. For example, copper gluconate is inorganic copper carbonate combined with gluconic acid.

+ Taking copper well above what is normally found in the diet can be a problem. Your body cannot process, and excrete excess amounts.

+ It’s far easier to get low in zinc than copper. This puts you at risk of building up an excessive amount of copper.

+ From a healthy thyroid perspective, there is even less reason to take copper as you are seeking to maintain a healthy level of zinc. A lack of zinc leads to severe, and widespread problems within the body. In fact, this nutrient is one of my top 5 essential nutrients to maximize thyroid health. The others are iodine, selenium, magnesium, and B-vitamins.

You can learn more here: Can Zinc Boost Thyroid Health? A Naturopath’s Guide

Copper Overload – Can It Hurt You?

Copper is regarded as an important trace element to help prevent anemia. Copper also supports bone, reproductive, and nervous system health.

This trace mineral is naturally found in a wide variety of foods including organ meats, seafood, beans, nuts, seeds, and grains.

While copper does provide some health benefits, for the most part it’s detrimental as it easily builds up in the body.

For most people, tap water is the major source of copper as corrosion of household plumbing systems releases this metal directly into the drinking supply.

The type of copper found in nutritional supplements and drinking water is an unbound, inorganic salt of copper. This type of copper can directly enter the bloodstream, bypassing the liver. This contributes to an immediate rise in the ‘free copper’ pool in the blood. High blood levels of copper are toxic, especially to the central nervous system.

Research into Alzheimer’s disease raises serious questions about copper intake.

Studies reveal free copper levels are significantly elevated in the brain of those diagnosed with this serious neurological disorder. In fact, the higher the free copper, the worse the cognition scores in those with Alzheimer’s disease.

Choose Copper-FREE Nutritional Supplements

Given what we now know about the central role of zinc on thyroid health, and the toxicity issues surround copper it’s wise to choose copper-free vitamin and mineral supplements. This includes thyroid health products. I’m always surprised to see small amounts of copper added to thyroid health formulas. Most people need zinc, not copper.

Are you taking a nutritional supplement that contains copper?

You need to take a very close look at the ingredient list to check if the product contains copper.

The exception to my recommendation to avoid supplements with copper? You are working with a skilled healthcare practitioner and specific testing has established a copper deficiency.

Current Guidelines for Copper Intake

Copper supplements are recommended to treat a deficiency. However as stated already, it’s rare to be truly deficient in copper.

According to the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) the daily recommended daily intake of copper is 1.5 – 3.0 mg for adults. The NHMRC also advises the safe upper level of intake from food, water and supplements should be no more than 10 mg per day for adults.

Both recommendations appear high when you consider a copper overload is strongly implicated in neurological diseases. It makes much more sense to minimize copper intake to safeguard your mental wellbeing.

You Must Avoid Copper If You Have Been Diagnosed With a Copper Metabolism Disorder

If you have been diagnosed with a Pyrrole disorder a copper supplement is definitely not recommend. This genetic disorder is managed in part by avoiding copper, and restoring healthy levels of vitamin B6 and zinc.

Additionally, individuals with Wilson’s disease, or other genetic copper metabolism disorders are warned against taking a vitamin or mineral supplement containing copper. Wilson’s disease disrupts proper copper clearance. Over time, copper toxicity causes organ damage, most notably damage to the liver.

In Summary

After reading this article it’s likely you have come to the same conclusion as me. It’s clear we are getting more than enough copper from our diet, and its risky taking additional copper in the form of a supplement.

For this reason, you may want to immediately rethink your approach when it comes to taking nutritional supplements. In fact, I strongly suggest you choose copper-free supplements. To find out exactly what you are taking you need to check the active ingredients listed on the label.


Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the New Zealand Ministry of Health (MoH). Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand. Nutrients. Copper. Link

Brewer GJ. Alzheimer’s disease causation by copper toxicity and treatment with zinc. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. 2014;6:92. Link

Brewer GJ. Copper-2 Hypothesis for Causation of the Current Alzheimer’s Disease Epidemic Together with Dietary Changes That Enhance the Epidemic. Chem Res Toxicol. 2017 Mar 20;30(3):763-768. Link

Frederickson CJ, Suh SW, Silva D, Frederickson CJ, Thompson RB. Importance of zinc in the central nervous system: the zinc-containing neuron. J Nutr. 2000 May;130(5S Suppl):1471S-83S. Review. Link

Institute of Medicine (US) Panel on Micronutrients. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2001. 7, Copper. Link

Main, E. Is There Too Much Copper In Your Multivitamin? Rodale News. Link

NutraIngredients. Copper levels in Supplements Should Be Reduced. 7 July 2005. William Reed Business Media Ltd. Link

Paddock, C. Copper in diet linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Medical News Today. 20 August 2013. Link

Rink L, Gabriel P. Zinc and the immune system. Proc Nutr Soc. 2000 Nov;59(4):541-52. Review. Link

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  1. I use a copper fry pan. Does that add copper to my body?

    • Louise O'Connor says:

      Ruthie, is the copper pan coated? Copper is highly reactive with foods so copper pans are often lined with stainless steel. If not, you are cooking on a copper surface so you will end being exposed to copper. Best wishes, Louise

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