An Imbalanced Zinc to Copper Ratio: A Cause of Anxiety?

weight lossZinc and copper are essential minerals that are known to antagonise each other. In this respect high intakes of copper can inhibit the absorption of zinc, and vice versa. Therefore a balance must be struck such that both minerals are taken in optimal amounts to ensure they can be absorbed sufficiently. Zinc therapy has been shown to be beneficial to those with anxiety and this may relate to a correction of the correct zinc to copper ratio. Studies have investigated the plasma zinc to copper ratio in individuals with anxiety in order to better understand the relationship between the zinc to copper ratio and mood disorders. In one study, a group of individuals with symptoms of anxiety had their blood analysed and the zinc to copper ratio determined. The results showed that subjects with anxiety had significantly higher levels of copper and lower levels of zinc compared to less anxious subjects. After zinc supplementation, the subjects experienced significant increases in plasma zinc and reductions in anxiety.

zinc copper anxiety depression

Zinc supplements can correct an unbalanced zinc to copper ratio, but evidence suggests that when this happens, zinc levels rise, but copper levels do not fall. Therefore zinc supplements correct the zinc to copper ratio by addressing the deficiency of zinc, rather than the oversupply of copper. Another way to address an imbalance might be to lower copper intake, but this may not be easy if copper is abundant in the diet and drinking water. Foods high in zinc include seafish, meat and nuts.

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Russo, A. J. 2011. Decreased zinc and increased copper in individuals with anxiety. Nutrition and Metabolic Insights. 4: NMI-S6349

About Robert Barrington

Robert Barrington is a writer, nutritionist, lecturer and philosopher.
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