Copper and Zinc Ratios

VisiVite uses a 40:1, Zinc to Copper ratio in all of its AREDS 2 eye vitamins for macular degeneration.

Copper and Zinc Ratios – Why VisiVite uses a 40:1 Zinc to Copper Ratio

Many nutrients work as antagonists with one another. The most common and well-known antagonism is the dietary zinc to copper ratio, where they both compete for intestinal absorption. When your Copper to Zinc ratio becomes too high, it can lead to acute or chronic conditions and likewise when your Zinc to Copper ratio is too high, negative health consequences can also occur.

The Role of Zinc in Health

Zinc plays numerous roles in the human body and at least 10 percent of the human proteome encodes for Zinc proteins. There are more than 3,000 zinc proteins in the human body, many of which are key enzymes concerning immune system regulation. However, many of the functions of these Zinc-containing enzymes are still unknown. Zinc in ionic form also acts as signaling agents in the body. 

More than 300 metalloenzymes require Zinc as a catalyst, and about 2,500 transcription factors, or 8% of the human genome, require Zinc for their structural integrity. Having said that, the inability to link the physiologic effects of Zinc depletion to Zinc status is due in part to an incomplete understanding of the biochemical and physiologic functions of Zinc that continue to the present day. But the discovery of the 24 zinc transporters has expanded our understanding of Zinc metabolism and absorption.

Zinc is also at the active site of copper-zinc superoxide dismutase, the primary antioxidant in every cell and in the bloodstream that reduces superoxide radical to the much less toxic hydrogen peroxide.

The most common uses of zinc in the body include: 

  • Immune function
  • Protein synthesis
  • Wound Healing
  • Antioxidant
  • Cell division
  • DNA synthesis
  • Regulation of growth and development

The U.S. RDA (recommended dietary allowance) according to the Linus Pauling Institute is 11 mg per day for adult males and 8 mg per day for adult females. Pregnant and lactating women, teenagers, children, and infants have different requirements. It is important to continually consume zinc, as there is no known storage place for zinc in the body. Although it is essential to health, supplementing with high doses of Zinc can lead to side effects, including lowering HDL cholesterol.

Risk factors for zinc deficiency include poor absorption, increased daily requirements, and increased losses. Persons with gastrointestinal disorders may have difficulty absorbing zinc. Vegetarians most likely have a lower Zinc intake, because meat is a more available source than plant-based foods. In one estimate, vegetarians require 50% more zinc than non-vegetarians. 

Signs of Zinc deficiency include: 

  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Decreased wound healing
  • Diarrhea
  • Skin and eye lesions
  • Hair loss
  • Impaired immune function
  • Weight loss

The Role of Copper in Health

Copper is a co-factor in enzymes which including oxidation-reduction reactions, immune function, iron metabolism, antioxidant defense and protein synthesis.   

Copper deficiency is rarer than zinc deficiency. Copper deficiency in fetal development can cause disruptions in skeletal formation, neurological formation, cardiovascular development and proper immune system development. Long-term Zinc deficiency can interfere with cholesterol metabolism.

Other signs of copper deficiency include: 

  • Fatigue
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Frequent sickness
  • Memory problems
  • Brittle bones
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Difficulty in walking
  • Premature gray hair
  • Pale skin

Copper can be toxic at high doses. Excess Copper intake can cause oxidative stress, with excessive free radical damage to cells. High copper levels can also result in an increased risk of cognitive decline and cardiovascular disease. 

The recommended daily intake of copper is 900 micrograms per day for adult men and women. The levels of dietary Copper for pregnant women, children, infants and teenagers is different.  

The Importance of the Zinc to Copper Ratio 

Copper and Zinc compete for binding sites in the intestine. Excess Zinc can lead to a Copper deficiency and excess Copper intake can result in Zinc deficiency. Human studies have demonstrated a correlation between oxidative stress and the ratio of copper to zinc regardless of gender, health or age. Older participants had a higher Copper to Zinc ratio and had higher levels of oxidative stress.

In a 2012 study, abnormal Copper to Zinc ratios may be responsible for an increase in inflammation that leads to an increase in all-cause mortality in an elderly population. A progressive decline in plasma Zinc accounted for most of the age-related changes in the Copper/Zinc ratios. The study authors concluded that the Cu/Zn ratio may be considered an important clinical inflammatory-nutritional biomarker as well as a significant predictor of all-cause mortality in over 70-year-olds.

A 2017 study of the copper to zinc ratio in the elderly found that “Plasma Zinc decrement was most strongly predicted by age . . .”.” Copper to Zinc ratio was positively associated with markers of systemic inflammation . . .” The study authors concluded that “Our findings show the most important independent determinants of plasma Zinc concentration and Copper/Zinc ratio variability in elderly population and suggest that the decline with age of Zinc circulating levels is more dependent on physiopathological changes occurring with aging rather than to its nutritional intake.” The conclusions of this study suggest that there are age-related declines in the ability to absorb or utilize Zinc, which means that more supplemental Zinc is required as we age.

Historically, a ten to one ratio of Zinc to Copper was considered optimal. However, the above studies demonstrate that more Zinc is required as we age and suggests that a higher Zinc to Copper dietary ratio is called for than previously thought.  The old ratio is outdated given the more recent study results showing Zinc absorption or utilization declines quite dramatically with age. Added to this is the newer hypothesis that copper is associated with serious cognitive diseases, but since copper is essential for the body’s synthesis of Copper Zinc Superoxide Dismutase, the major cellular antioxidant, there must be adequate Copper in the diet. A 40 to 1 ratio of Zinc to Copper in supplemental form will overcome the age-related decline in Zinc utilization while still providing enough Copper for antioxidant enzyme production.

This is precisely the ratio of Zinc to Copper found in VisiVite’s AREDS 2 Gold and Select Formulas.

VisiVite AREDS 2 PLUS+ Gold Formula contains Zinc 40 mg and Copper 1 mg, in the recommended ratio.

In a study entitled “The Effect of Five-Year Zinc Supplementation on Serum Zinc, Serum Cholesterol and Hematocrit in Persons Randomly Assigned to Treatment Group in the Age-Releated Eye Disease Study: AREDS Report No. 8,  supplementation with 80 mg of Zinc and 2 mg of Copper increased the serum levels of Zinc but had no effect on blood serum Copper levels. This lack of an effect on Copper levels is identical to the findings of an earlier study where supplementation with 150 mg per day of Zinc alone in healthy persons had no effect on plasma Copper levels after a six-week period showing no effect of extremely high Zinc supplementation on serum Copper levels.  

The VisiVite AREDS 2 Select Formula and the VisiVite AREDS 2 Gold Formula use the same 40 to 1 ratio of Zinc to Copper used in the AREDS Report No. 8, with the added precaution that daily Zinc intake should not exceed 40 mg per day.