Iron overload can induce mild copper deficiency

J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2001 Apr;14(4):237-40. doi: 10.1016/S0946-672X(01)80009-2.


Dietary copper in the U.S. often is lower than that proved insufficient for men and women under controlled conditions. Iron overload can have adverse effects on copper nutriture and can produce cardiac disease in people. The hypothesis that iron can interfere with copper utilization to produce adverse effects related to cardiovascular function was tested. Rats were fed a diet high in iron and marginal, but not deficient in copper for comparison with similar diets containing iron at the recommended amount. Copper and iron were measured by atomic absorption spectroscopy; cholesterol was measured by fluorescence, ceruloplasmin was measured by oxidase activity and hematology was done by an automated cell counter. When dietary copper was 2.0 mg/kg of diet, high iron decreased (p<0.008) cardiac and hepatic copper, plasma copper and ceruloplasmin, and increased (p<0.02) cardiac weight, hepatic iron and plasma cholesterol. When dietary copper was increased to 2.5 mg/kg, copper in heart and plasma decreased (p<0.04) and hepatic iron increased (p=0.001) with high iron but other effects disappeared. No harmful changes in hematology, such as hematocrit, mean corpuscular volume, etc. were found. High iron increased the dietary copper requirement of the animals. People with iron overload may benefit from copper supplementation, particularly if they habitually consume a diet low in copper.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ceruloplasmin / metabolism
  • Cholesterol / metabolism
  • Copper / blood
  • Copper / deficiency*
  • Copper / metabolism
  • Heart Diseases / etiology
  • Heart Diseases / metabolism
  • Iron Overload / complications*
  • Iron Overload / metabolism
  • Iron, Dietary / metabolism*
  • Liver
  • Male
  • Myocardium / metabolism
  • Myocardium / pathology
  • Organ Size
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Spectrophotometry, Atomic


  • Iron, Dietary
  • Copper
  • Cholesterol
  • Ceruloplasmin