What Is the Importance of Copper for Kids
Posted on July 19 2022,
Copper is an essential trace mineral that is present in several natural foods and is also available in the form of dietary supplements. It is a cofactor for a wide range of enzymes, which are involved in iron metabolism, energy production, synthesis of neurotransmission, and activation of neuropeptides. Copper also helps to activate several genes, maintains immune health in the human body, and plays a crucial role in the proper development of your child’s brain. (1)
Research has shown that the amount of this trace mineral that you require per day depends on your gender and age. Major dietary sources of this mineral include nuts, beef, whole-grain products, chickpeas, potatoes, seeds, and chocolates. It is also available in the form of multi-mineral or multi-vitamin supplements. In dietary supplements, copper is present in the form of chelates, copper amino acids, copper gluconates, and cupric oxide.
According to health experts, a deficiency of this mineral can result in several health problems, including weakness, fatigue, frequent sickness, brittle bones, problems with learning and memory, difficulties with walking, and sensitivity to cold. It is recommended that you try to fulfill your child’s copper needs primarily through their daily diet. In case of severe deficiency, you can also give copper or multi-vitamin supplements to your child after the approval of your child’s pediatrician. (2)
How Does Copper Function in Your Child’s Body?
Copper performs several important functions in your child’s body. It aids primarily in bone strength, brain development, and immune health. Scientific studies have revealed that this trace mineral is a fundamental part of several enzymes known as cuproenzymes, which play a significant role in the formation of connective tissues, cellular energy production, formation of melanin, iron metabolism, and proper brain development in kids. In addition, copper regulates a wide range of physiological processes, including the regulation of gene expressions and pigmentation. One study has shown that due to strong antimicrobial properties, copper is used as a biocide in hospitals, wood preservatives, agriculture, and paints. (1)(3)
How is copper absorbed in your child’s body? In the human body, this mineral is absorbed in the small intestine. About 2/3rd of the copper in your child’s body is located in the muscles and skeleton. The research has revealed that only a small amount of this mineral is stored in the human body and a larger amount is removed through the urine and bile. Copper levels in your child’s body are maintained through the small intestine and liver. (1)
Why Do Children Need Copper?
You may think of copper as a material used for electronics, plumbing or wiring, but we are talking about it as an essential mineral that your child’s body needs in order to maintain their overall health and wellbeing. Several benefits of copper for your kid are listed below.
- Maintains skin health
- Supports brain development
- Promotes blood circulation
- Improves digestion
- Prevents bone loss
- Contains Anti-inflammatory properties
- Maintains body weight
Maintains skin health: Copper is vital for maintaining skin health in children because it enhances the production of elastin (provides resilience and elasticity to the skin) and collagen (gives structure and strength to the skin).
One scientific study has found that due to its strong anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties, this mineral is woven into socks to treat foot infections in athletes. These socks are also good for preventing wounds, ulcers, and cuts. Another recent study has shown that sleeping on pillowcases that contain copper oxides can improve your overall skin appearance and reduce fine wrinkles. (4)
Copper is also used in wound dressing because it promotes the formation of blood vessels and skin regeneration, which ultimately supports wound healing. Recent research has claimed that products that contain copper oxide are safe and non-irritating to use on damaged skin. (5)
Supports brain development: Research has shown that copper is a strong brain stimulant that is linked with higher thought processes. It enhances creativity, opens neural pathways, and supports brain functioning in children. In short, it makes your child’s brain more efficient and fast- who doesn’t want that?! (6)
Promotes blood circulation: Copper promotes the absorption of iron in your child’s body and releases it when needed by essential organs, such as the liver. It improves blood circulation and regulates blood flow by maintaining the iron levels in your child’s body. It also aids the body in maintaining the oxidation of internal organs and a healthy count of red blood cells. (7)
Improves digestion: This essential trace mineral is great for healthy metabolism and proper digestion in kids. Several studies have depicted that copper is effective in reducing inflammation in the stomach, killing pathogenic microbes that are present in water, and promoting the digestion of food. (6)
Prevents bone loss: Recent research has shown that in combination with other minerals, including calcium, manganese, and zinc, copper prevents bone loss and supports bone formation in children. This is because it has strong collagen-forming and bone-strengthening properties that support bone health and connective tissues. (6)
Contains anti-inflammatory properties: Copper has natural anti-inflammatory properties and can provide relief from aches and pains that are caused by inflamed joints. (7)
Maintains body weight: Research has shown that copper is effective in reducing extra weight that is present in your child’s body, which can lead to several health problems caused by childhood obesity. This is because this mineral plays a crucial role in the breakdown of fats and promotion of digestion. It also has a strong anti-cancerous effect due to its strong antioxidant properties. Antioxidants fight against free radicals that can lead to cancer. (6)
What Is Copper Deficiency?
While deficiency of copper is rare in children, it seems that fewer children today are getting enough of the mineral. According to a survey, about 25% of kids in Canada and America are not getting the recommended intake of copper each day. (8)
The common causes of copper deficiency in children include:
- Poor dietary intake of copper-rich foods
- Surgeries that affect the digestive tract
- Excessive intake of zinc because it competes with copper for absorption
Common signs and symptoms of copper deficiency in children include:
- Weakness and fatigue
- Frequent sickness
- Problems with learning and memory
- Difficulties with walking
Weakness and fatigue: No one denies the importance of micronutrients for children. This is because they play a crucial role in maintaining energy levels in your child’s body. The research has revealed that copper is vital for the proper absorption of iron in the human gut. This condition can result in iron deficiency anemia, a condition in which the body becomes unable to carry oxygen to all body tissues. Inadequate oxygen can make your child weaker and feel tired more quickly.
Additionally, the body’s cells use this mineral to generate ATP (adenine triphosphate), which is the main energy source for your kid’s body. Thus, a lack of copper can affect energy levels in children which leads to fatigue. (9)
Frequent sickness: Children who get sick often may have a copper deficiency. This is because copper boosts immune functions in the human body. Low copper levels affect the production of immune cells (white blood cells) in children, which play a significant role in fighting against infections. One study has found that inadequate copper levels dramatically reduce neutrophil production in children, which are white blood cells that act as the body’s first-line defense. (10)
Problems with learning and memory: According to health experts, copper deficiency could make it harder to learn and recall information for children. This is because copper is used by enzymes that supply energy to your child’s brain. In addition, copper deficiency is associated with stunted brain development and poor cognitive abilities in kids. (11)
Difficulties in walking: Children with low copper levels may find it difficult to walk normally. This is because enzymes that maintain optimal health of the spinal cord require copper for proper functioning. Research has shown that walking is regulated by signals between the brain and spinal cord. Copper deficiency can lead to unsteadiness and loss of coordination in children that result in walking difficulties. (12)
How Much Copper Does Your Kid Need per Day?
Dosing recommendations for copper are given in the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) developed by the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). DRI is the optimal amount of nutrients, which a person needs per day. (1)
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for this mineral is provided in micrograms (mcg) below.
|Age||Recommended daily amount in micrograms (mcg)|
|0-6 months||200 mcg|
|7-12 months||200 mcg|
|1-3 years||340 mcg|
|4-8 years||440 mcg|
|9-13 years||700 mcg|
|14-18 years||890 mcg|
|19+ years||900 mcg|
Should You Give Copper Supplements to Your Kids?
Although copper supplements are available to buy at the store, it still it is better to fulfill your child’s copper needs through their every day diet. This is because mega doses of copper supplements can be toxic for your child. (1)
Foods That Are Rich in Copper
The major dietary sources of this trace mineral include organ meats, shellfish, whole-grain products, chocolate, nuts, and seeds. The research has shown that copper absorption is strongly linked with the amount of copper present in the diet. In addition, tap water and other beverages also supply a good amount of copper ranging from 0.0005 to 1 mg/L.
Here are some foods that contain a good amount of copper: (1)
|Food||Serving size||Micrograms (mcg) per serving|
|Pan-fried beef||3 oz||12,400 mcg|
|Unsweetened baking chocolate||1 oz||938 mcg|
|Cooked mushrooms||1/2 cup||650 mcg|
|Roasted cashew nuts||1 oz||628 mcg|
|Toasted sunflower seeds||1/4 cup||614 mcg|
|Dark chocolate||1 oz||501 mcg|
|Cooked millet||1 cup||280 mcg|
|Cooked whole wheat pasta||1 cup||263 mcg|
|Raw avocados||1/2 cup||219 mcg|
|Boiled spinach||1/2 cup||157 mcg|
|Cooked turkey||3 oz||128 mcg|
Risks and Side Effects of Copper
The excessive intake of copper (more than 1 mg per day) can cause acute toxicity in children. Common side effects include diarrhea, vomiting, dizziness, stomach aches, and muscle pain. Severe toxicity can result in kidney and liver damage, excessive gut bleeding, anemia, and even death. (13)
Studies have shown that copper toxicity is not common in people who do not have any inherited disorder of copper metabolism. One study in particular found that the long-term intake of mega doses of copper supplements (30 to 60 mg per day) can cause severe liver damage in kids. (14)
According to health experts, adequate doses of copper supplements are likely safe for all healthy individuals, including pregnant women and children. Remember not to give more than 10 mg of copper per day to your child to prevent side effects. Additionally, some studies have found that copper supplements are not safe for children that have any type of genetic disorder, including Wilson’s diseases or childhood cirrhosis syndrome. (15)(16)
Copper is an essential trace mineral that performs several important functions in your child’s body. It plays an important role in maintaining skin health, supporting brain development, promoting blood circulation, improving digestion, preventing bone loss, and maintaining body weight. The major dietary sources of this mineral are oysters, organ meat, nuts, and seeds. A deficiency of copper can lead to fatigue, weakness, difficulty in learning, and challenges with walking in children. In case of severe deficiency, you can give the copper supplements to your child after the approval of your child’s pediatrician.
Disclaimer: The content of this blog post is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not use this information for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal or homeopathic supplement and with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.