Copper deficiency anemia

It is perhaps common knowledge that anemia can be caused by an iron deficiency or a vitamin B12 deficiency. And that the consequences of this can include (extreme) fatigue. But did you know that anemia can also be caused by a copper deficiency? And that general practitioners rarely think about that? Perhaps supplementing copper in the diet is a good idea in this context.

  • General
  • Anemia
  • A copper deficiency
  • Complaints about a copper deficiency
  • Diagnosis


Copper is a trace element and is necessary for various functions of the body. Copper is bound to proteins in the body and thus becomes a building material for various enzymes. Copper is necessary for, among other things, the production of red blood cells and the immune system. Copper is also needed to convert iron into hemoglobin in the body. And because copper influences the red blood cells, it also influences the presence or absence of anemia.


Anemia is often caused by an iron deficiency or a vitamin B12 deficiency. If you have too few red blood cells in the blood, this indicates anemia. This means that the hemoglobin (Hb) level is too low. Where a low MCV value indicates an iron deficiency or difficulties with iron absorption and a too high MCV indicates, among other things, a deficiency of vitamin B12 and folic acid. With a low MCV, the ferritin level is often also determined, which makes it even clearer whether there is indeed an iron deficiency. However, it is also possible that a copper deficiency is responsible for the anemia.

A copper deficiency

A deficiency of copper in the blood is also called hypocuprisy. In general it is stated that not many people would have a copper deficiency. However, there are a few conditions that can cause problems with copper, such as Menkes disease. But a copper deficiency can also occur if the intestines cannot absorb nutrients properly or insufficiently or in the case of chronic infections. For example, in celiac disease, which is a severe form of gluten intolerance, both an iron deficiency and a copper deficiency can occur.

Complaints about a copper deficiency

The symptoms of a copper deficiency include:

  • fatigue
  • loss of color of hair or skin
  • anemia
  • reduced resistance and shortage of white blood cells
  • heart failure
  • bone abnormalities
  • abnormalities of the nerve pathways that can cause sensory disorders, muscle weakness and gait disorders to develop
  • growth retardation in children
  • delayed mental development in children 1


The annoying thing is that the complaints mentioned are very similar to iron or vitamin B12 deficiencies. And that is why doctors often assume that the anemia is caused by a shortage of one of these substances and therefore do not look any further.
Especially if you have already been treated with iron or vitamin B12 (depending on little or too much MCV) and that treatment does not work, then it might be wise to look further. Bear in mind that the status of vitamin B12 is very difficult to determine. If one has a normal or elevated level of this substance in the blood, a deficiency of vitamin B12 may still occur at the cellular level. Furthermore, ask your doctor about the possibility of a copper deficiency and perform a blood test to rule out a copper deficiency. Especially if you suffer from tingling and other neurological symptoms.

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