Copper and Testosterone: Chelated & Androgenic
By Ali Kuoppala | Last reviewed Tue 25 September 2018
Medical Review by Dr. Vlad Belghiru, MD
Copper (Cu) is definitely not the first thing that comes to mind when we talk about testosterone boosting micronutrients, or just about plain minerals. All-in-all, it’s a very unpopular mineral to supplement with, and nobody really cares about copper.
But I think we should be a little more interested in our copper intake than what we are now…
…Because chelated copper could actually increase testosterone levels when taken at optimal dosages.
Here’s what I’m talking about:
Copper and Testosterone Production
Copper is an essential trace element in both humans and animals, and the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for copper in the normal sized human male is about 3mg/day.
It has multiple important functions in the human body, including oxygen transportation, photosynthesis, etc. Copper deficiency is also associated with thyroid problems, impaired growth, osteoporosis, and abnormal glucose and cholesterol metabolism.
But is copper deficiency actually a problem for most people? And is there any need for supplementation in the first place?
Answer: Severe copper deficiency is not that common, and people who eat balanced whole-food diets, should be able to meet their daily copper needs from dietary sources alone (oysters, kale, mushrooms, nuts, avocados, and fermented foods are all high in copper).
However, there are two very important facts about copper that you should take into consideration. Firstly, almost all kinds of dietary copper are poorly absorbed by the human body (30-40%).
And secondly, eating a lot of zinc depletes copper from the body (and vice versa). As zinc is known to boost testosterone levels, many men tend to supplement with high-dose zinc supplements on a daily basis, without taking in any copper to balance that zinc-induced depletion (optimal ratio of zinc and copper is considered to be between 10:1 and 10:2).
If you supplement with 30 mg’s of zinc per day, then you should also take 3-6 mg’s of copper to balance out the zinc-induced copper depletion.
With that out of the way, we can finally get to the actual subject. Here’s why you don’t want to be depleted in copper:
a) In this old in-vitro study, the researchers saw that when isolated hypothalamic cells were altered to chelated copper complexes, gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) increased by a nice 68%. As GnRH is basically the hormone that starts the whole cascade of events that lead to testosterone production, even a slight boost in it should increase testosterone levels. To what degree this happens when chelated copper is orally ingested? Hard to say.
b) This Indian study wanted to take the above experiment further, and they decided to inject copper chloride straight into the guts of living male Wistar rats for 26 consecutive days, with varying doses (1000 mcg, 2000 mcg, and 3000 mcg/kg).
They found out that the 1000 mcg dose significantly increased testosterone levels via luteinizing hormone (LH) stimulation. Which supports the findings of the first study above.
However, the 2000 mcg and 3000 mcg doses started to become toxic for the rats, and on the higher dosed groups, testosterone was actually decreased. Several human studies have also found out that when copper intake gets too high, it becomes unhealthy and toxic, but lower intake is absolutely essential for the health of the human body (study, study, study).
c) Then there’s this other quite old in-vitro study, which found out that when isolated hypothalamic neurons were altered to chelated copper, luteinizing hormone (LH) release increased by 45%. As LH is the hormone that stimulates testosterone synthesis inside the ballsack, these findings furthermore support the theory that copper should increase testosterone production.
To put that all together, there’s evidence that a modest dose of chelated copper supplement (affiliate link) could increase testosterone levels by stimulating the release of GnRH and LH. And there seems to be a toxicity limit where everything backfires once the copper intake gets to be too high. Of course we have to also remember that these are only studies done on isolated cells and rats. To which degree these results can be seen when humans take oral copper? It will remain unknown until someone decides to study that. The mechanism exists for sure though.
In the view of this evidence, I would highly recommend you to keep your copper levels in check, either by eating a diet rich in whole-foods or by supplementing with bio-available chelated copper (see recommended brand above).
What is the optimal dose for chelated copper you might ask? Personally, I take either 2x the daily RDA (2 x 3mg’s) if I’m not supplementing with zinc. When I do supplement with zinc though, I take some copper with it to balance out the zinc-induced copper depletion. For this I follow the optimal human ratio of zinc and copper (10:1-2), meaning that if I take 30 mg’s of zinc, I also take 6 mg’s of copper (on top of the 2 x RDA).