What is Copper Gluconate?
Copper is a naturally occurring mineral in the earth, but our bodies produce it as well. We need it in very small amounts and most of us get all the copper we need through food and water. It’s rare to be deficient, but there are some cases where supplementation may be warranted. Most of us are familiar with the industrial uses of copper like in cookware, wires and pennies. But if we swallowed a penny we wouldn’t absorb any copper, because it’s not in the right form. On the other hand, forms like copper gluconate are considered “orally bioavailable” and can be absorbed by your body if ingested. Copper gluconate is often found in many foods and supplements (x, x).
A little copper goes a long way. It is a cofactor for several key enzymes, is involved in the proper functioning of red blood cells and antioxidants and helps keep bones, connective tissue and the immune system healthy (x, x). As important as copper is, though, too much can be toxic.
Copper Gluconate Benefits
Copper supplementation is most effective when used to correct a deficiency. Signs of a deficiency can include anemia, low levels of certain white blood cells, osteoporosis, paleness and visibly less hair pigmentation than usual (x).
Certain situations can put someone at risk for a copper deficiency. People who can’t absorb nutrients well, who take high levels of zinc supplements, who rely completely on parental nutrition or who have certain genetic anomalies are more likely to need copper supplementation (x).
Here is how even trace amounts of copper benefit the body:
Copper Gluconate for Bone Health
Copper is important for keeping bones strong. While bones seem solid, they’re actually a continually shifting matrix of minerals and tissue. People with low copper levels are more likely to develop osteoporosis. In cases of osteoporosis risk, supplementation may be necessary (x).
Copper is involved in the activation of a molecule called superoxide dismutase (SOD), a powerful antioxidant produced in the body. Antioxidants neutralize free-radicals (naturally occurring compounds in the body that cause cell damage) (x).
In a study, subjects taking 3-6 mg of supplemental copper had an increase in SOD activity (x). There is no way to prevent free-radicals from forming, but you can promote antioxidant production by providing all the minerals they need to function.
Copper plays a role in energy production in a few ways. First, it is a cofactor for the enzyme cytochrome C oxidase. What does this mean, you ask? Good question!
Cytochrome C oxidase is involved in a process called cellular respiration, which is the sequence of events that occurs within the cell to produce energy. The last step of cellular respiration requires a copper-containing molecule to help cytochrome C oxidase finish making energy. So without enough copper, the process can slow or stop (x).
The second way copper affects energy levels is by assisting the body in iron absorption (x). Iron is important for healthy red blood cells. A deficiency in iron can lead to a type of anemia, causing fatigue. Copper supplements can therefore help improve anemia, as shown through research (x).
Copper deficiency can lead to cardiovascular issues. Laboratory studies, for example, found that animals with a copper deficiency developed a number of cardiac abnormalities (x). In humans, supplementation in cases of deficiency improved cholesterol, blood pressure and heart rhythm (x).
Copper Gluconate for Skin, Hair & Connective Tissue
Collagen is a protein that is found in skin, bones, tendons and joints and is what gives connective tissue their elasticity and strength. Once again, copper acts as a cofactor in collagen synthesis and a deficiency can lead to problems with skin and hair (x, x).
Naturally, skin care products have jumped on this. There are tons of cosmetics on the market now that include copper peptides (copper connected to a protein) that claim to boost collagen function and improve the appearance of skin and hair.
But it’s not all about looks. The problems that occur with connective tissue as a result of copper deficiency can also lead to rheumatoid arthritis. It appears that there is a direct link between the level of connective tissue inflammation and copper status among those with the condition (x, x).
Important for Immune System
When the immune system underperforms, it could be due to low copper levels. White blood cell synthesis is dependent on copper, and when levels are low, the body is more susceptible to illness and infection (x).
Food Sources of Copper
Copper is widely available in food as well as some public water supplies. Good sources of copper include (x):
- Sunflower seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Shiitake mushrooms
- Dark chocolate
- Liver and other organ meats
Copper Gluconate Side Effects and Dosage
In the case of pure copper gluconate powder, more is not better. It is important not to exceed the maximum dosage of 4 mg per day, as too much of it can become toxic (x). Copper also competes with zinc for absorption. This is something to remember if you are trying to increase you Zinc intake (x).
The Bottom Line
Copper is important for the proper functioning of the body. It plays a role in energy production, activates a powerful antioxidant, supports the immune system, and makes sure connective tissue and bones stay strong. It might even help you look better! Whether or not to supplement with the orally bioavailable form copper gluconate — or any form of copper — requires careful consideration. Too much can be dangerous. If you’re unsure, ask your healthcare provider for more guidance.