Bioavailable Copper

Bioavailable Copper

Recently we have been getting a lot of queries about bio available copper.

Copper is an essential trace mineral – the most abundant dietary trace mineral after iron and zinc – that is naturally present in some foods, water or sold as a supplement. Copper supplementation usually contains a number of different forms of synthetic copper such as copper gluconate, copper acetate, or copper sulphate to name a few. We here at Marine Healthfoods believe that when turning to supplementation, naturally occurring forms of vitamins and minerals are the best way to achieve the desired results.  This is the OysterMax® mission.

Various factors influence copper absorption. As is the case with most minerals, copper needs protein. Copper absorption is enhanced by protein in a number of ways. Copper that is bioavailable is generally copper found within a protein such as the master antioxidant ceruloplasmin (a ferroxidase enzyme) which is a major copper-binding protein found in the liver. These proteins, when active and fully functional, can vigorously work in your body to reduce inflammation, oxidative stress and facilitate many metabolic processes. It is argued that chelated forms tend to be the best forms. Chelated copper simply means that the copper has been bound to an amino acid (protein) in a laboratory in order to make it better for absorption. The Ocean is our laboratory and the oyster has provided the correct ration of zinc and copper for maximum absorption.


There are varying levels of antioxidants to be mindful of:

1st line defense antioxidants – these are the kind that stop free radicals forming

2nd line defense antioxidants – they scavenge free radicals to stop chain formation

3rd line defense antioxidants – these repair damage caused by free radicals

4th line defense antioxidants – these recognize signals required for free radical production and adapt to prevent more damage

They say prevention is the 1st line of defense and this is especially true with antioxidants.  The metalloenzymes we mentioned earlier that utilize copper are part of this first line of defense. In the body, copper shifts between the cuprous (Cu1+) and cupric (Cu2+) forms, though the majority of the body’s copper is in the cupric form.

Copper assists with red and white blood cell production and is a cofactor for several enzymes known as “cuproenzymes” involved in various biological functions within the human body. These cuproenzymes are metalloenzymes that contains one or more copper atoms. Metalloenzymes are enzymes that utilise a metal cation as a cofactor in the active enzyme site promoting a wide range of reactions including hydrolytic processes and oxidation/reductions.

Copper is an essential metalloenzyme partly due to its ability to easily accept and donate electrons which contributes to its role in redox reactions & scavenging free radicals thus reducing oxidative stress. Oxidative stress occurs when there is an internal imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals or reactive species. When the production of free radicals in the body exceeds the level of natural antioxidant defense mechanisms,  this creates a cellular oxidative environment which triggers the oxidation of essential biomolecules like DNA, protein and lipids. This can lead to a lot of health complications over time.

Copper-dependent enzymes transport iron and load it into haemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen through the blood. Copper-dependent enzymes also provide a natural defense against free radicals that damage the body; Defense against oxidative damage depends mainly on the copper-containing superoxide dismutases.

Superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT) and glutathione peroxidase (GPX) are antioxidant enzymes which not only play fundamental, but indispensable roles, in the antioxidant protective capacity of biological systems against free radical attack.

Fact: SOD in oysters is 60% similar to SOD in humans. There are SOD supplements on the market sourced from melon and cucumber skins but we feel an animal source is more potent. We plan to carry out more research on this in the future to verify that. The feed back we get would suggest this for sure.

See a video below on Cu, Zn Superoxide Dismutase (SOD1)!

Superoxide dismutase (SOD) functions as an antioxidant by catalyzing the conversion of superoxide radicals to hydrogen peroxide and molecular oxygen, while the catalase and peroxidases convert hydrogen peroxide which is subsequently reduced to oxygen and water. In humans, there are three forms of SOD isoenzyme: copper, zinc-dependent SOD (Cu, Zn SOD – SOD 1), manganese-dependent SOD (Mn SOD – SOD 2), and extracellular SOD (EC-SOD – SOD 3).

So, if you see a supplement boasting the health claim “contributes to the protection of cells from oxidative stress” or anything similar, it basically means that it can assist in providing adequate antioxidant effects to contribute to the purging of free radicals and getting the body back in balance. The elements copper & zinc are found naturally in OysterMax® at sufficient levels to make this claim

Generally speaking, only small amounts of copper are typically stored in the body – most of the body’s copper is located in the skeleton and muscle. The site of maximum copper absorption is assumed to be the stomach and upper intestine.

There are a few ways to encourage and discourage absorption of copper. L-amino acids facilitates intestinal absorption while Picolinic acid (a chelating agent) has a favourable binding affinity for copper and may facilitate its absorption also. Minerals that compete with copper (known as “mineral antagonists”) will also have a significant effect on copper bioavailability. For example, synthetic zinc supplementation is a common cause of copper deficiency because high dietary synthetic zinc intakes increase the synthesis of an intestinal cell protein called metallothionein. Metallothionein binds certain metals and traps them in intestinal cells thus preventing their absorption. Metallothionein has a strong affinity for copper, so high levels of metallothionein encouraged by excess synthetic zinc cause a decrease in copper absorption. Essentially, zinc and copper compete for absorption in the stomach, with zinc being the usual winner. This doesn’t mean that you should not take zinc when taking copper or vice versa – quite the opposite in fact. Because of the relationship between copper and zinc it’s important that you ensure to figure out the exact amount required for harmony and that they are taken together in a balanced ratio. Fortunately, with OysterMax® nature has already created the perfect balance and you can rest assured there will be no competition between the elements. The synergy which should exist between them will prevail.


We’re not saying that you need to be taking massive amounts of copper either – the recommended daily intake varies between 0.9 to 1 mg. Interestingly, absorption of copper is influenced by the amount of copper in the diet – but not in the way you might think. A diet with a lower copper intake may see an increase in absorption as your body really tries its hardest to get some bang for its buck so to speak. Really, what we’re trying to say is it’s important to understand how micronutrients work on their own and how they interact together to really get the most beneficial results from supplementation. We really believe that naturally occurring vitamins and minerals from natural food sources are better as they’re created and balanced as nature intended.

Not long ago we went back through our lab reports from the last few years to look at levels and work out accurate ratios in relation to zinc and copper interactions in OysterMax®. The average zinc: copper ratio in OysterMax® is 11:1. This is how nature has intended it to be in the oyster. These elements are naturally occurring and very bio available. The graphs below illustrate that synergy.

The graph shows the levels of both fluctuating seasonally in tandem. This is because the naturally occurring zinc and copper and bound together in precious molecules making them very bio available.

The science gets more hard-core below but, in a nutshell, oysters live in harsh environments and they experience free radical build up much like ourselves. To counteract this they produce antioxidants and those antioxidants are a source of the copper and zinc in our product. As these nutrients are already bound in molecules they are much more bio available.

We feel this is important as other brands don’t put nutrient data on the bottle like we do. They still make claims for zinc and other nutrients without backing up these claims with numerical data which is very suspect to say the least. Many companies are trying to tap into an emerging market for naturally occurring bio available sources of copper, which are very hard to find. If you experience brands like these always ask for a COA (certificate of analysis) and ask them to explain such ratios. 

These practices make it very hard for your clients to pick the most potent sources for their nutrient needs but rest assured we will continue to test and ensure every bottle does exactly what it says and we will always be only too happy to provide COA’s if required. This information will be invaluable to you in your quest for optimum health. As OysterMax® is the only oyster extract on the market which gives you exact levels of nutrients in each batch, you will be able to spot inferior products very easily. Other brands will not give this data as they use lots of fillers and bulking agents to increase profits. If you see products with a Zinc: Copper ratio very different to what we have shown, then be wary of the quality of such products. OysterMax® has always been 100% pure oyster meat powder and it is the premium source of bioavailable zinc and copper on the supplement market. 

If you ever have any questions or need added support to help you promote OysterMax® please do not hesitate to reach out to us at and we will do whatever we can to help.

Not a substitute for a varied diet.

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