The human body contains only 70 to 80 mg of copper in total, but it's an essential part of many important enzymes. Copper's possible role in treating disease is based on the fact that these enzymes can't do their jobs without it. However, there is little direct evidence that taking extra copper can treat any disease.

The official U.S. recommendations for daily intake of copper are as follows:

  • Infants 0–6 months, 200 mcg
    7–12 months, 220 mcg
  • Children 1–3 years, 340 mcg
    4–8 years, 440 mcg
  • Males and females 9–13 years, 700 mcg
    14–18 years, 890 mcg
    19 years and older, 900 mcg
  • Pregnant women, 1,000 mcg
  • Nursing women, 1,300 mcg

High zincintake reduces copper stores in the body;1,2 for this reason, if you are taking zinc in doses above nutritional levels (as, for example, in the treatment of macular degeneration), you will need extra copper.

In addition, if you are taking iron or large doses of vitamin C, you may need extra copper.3–7 Ideally, you should take copper at least 2 hours apart from these two nutrients, so that they don't interfere with each other's absorption.

Oysters, nuts, legumes, whole grains, sweet potatoes, and dark greens are good sources of copper. Drinking water that passes through copper plumbing is a good source of this mineral, and sometimes it may even provide too much.