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030: How to manage the zinc-to-copper ratio and what to do if zinc and copper are both low-normal when supplementing with 15 mg of zinc and 1 mg of copper.

Masterjohn Q&A Files Episode 30


I don't recommend looking at the zinc-to-copper ratio. Although there are studies correlating health endpoints with the zinc-to-copper ratio, I do not believe that it is a causal factor in disease. 

I believe the zinc-to-copper ratio is often associated with disease because inflammation raises plasma copper and lowers plasma zinc, based on taking zinc up in the cells and mobilizing stored copper out of the liver. You want zinc and copper at the right levels; the ratios are less important. You want both around the middle of the reference range; the bottom of the range is not adequate.

If you are taking a supplement, then the simplest thing to do would be to take it twice per day instead of once per day and to make sure you are taking it on an empty stomach. Up to 50 mg of zinc will not cause nausea on an empty stomach in most people if you take it with a full glass of water.

Some people do have digestive issues when supplementing on an empty stomach, and if you need to take it with food, do not supplement anywhere near phytate, which is the principal inhibitor of zinc absorption and is found in whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes.

I recommend Jarrow’s zinc balance, which has the exact ratio that you’re talking about. It’s a convenient way to have the copper in the zinc supplement already. But if you are low in copper, this isn’t an adequate source for two reasons: (1) the amount of copper is too low, and (2) the form of copper isn’t ideal (it has lower bioavailability because it’s not the oxidation state that you get in food).

For a copper supplement, I would want to use food first, and liver capsules if you want a supplement. For foods, check out the tiers of copper-rich foods that I recommend, which includes liver, cocoa powder, and certain mushrooms.

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The Masterjohn Q&A Files
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Chris Masterjohn, PhD