Copper toxicity and organ meats

by (440) Updated February 10, 2012 at 4:43 AM Created February 08, 2012 at 3:42 AM

Hey all,

Recently I've been trying to get into eating a lot of organ meats, with some success. My goal is to maximize nutrient intake, but in a balanced way (and staying well below toxicity levels). I've noticed that (according to my nutrition tracker) organ meats, at least lamb and beef liver, are extraordinarily high in copper. My understanding is that copper needs to be balanced by zinc consumption so as not to result in zinc deficiency. I also understand that too much copper can produce toxicity.

So my question is, how much organ meat is ideal? It seems like our ancestors would have frequently consumed the stuff, but did they have a rich source of zinc to counter it? What levels of copper could be considered toxic?

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5 Replies

440 · February 10, 2012 at 4:43 AM

I suppose another way to consider this is from the perspective of the ratio of the organ meat to the rest of the animal. If we assume that the average hunter-gatherer ate all of the animals he killed and used a lean cow as an example, the ratio of meat to organs would be 569 lbs to 27 lbs, or 21:1. This excludes the weight of fat, bones, and the parts of the animal that are generally discarded.

Only a part of the 27 lbs of organs would be liver, which is really the only extraordinarily copper-rich organ out of the bunch. If hunter-gatherers didn't waste parts of the animal or preferentially eat the liver, then the ratio of zinc to copper in the edible parts of the cow (including organs, and calculated using nutrient values taken from pasture-raised animals) would be approximately 18 to 1.

So perhaps that's closer to the ideal ratio, though I wonder what the ratio would be for paleolithic diets as a whole (as opposed to just the meat, or rather the beef, part).

11648 · February 08, 2012 at 5:10 AM

Get liver once a week, you don't need much of it (50gr will do). You can have a lamb heart or kidney at another day this way.

4888 · February 08, 2012 at 5:49 PM

Apparently I've had 1005% RDA of copper today - and I haven't even included the pork that I am going to eat this evening! Also 3108 % B12, 381% Riboflavin, 269% selenium - lots are very high! FitDay doesn't seem to have organic red palm oil there, sadly - so no idea about vitamin E and various other things.

Overall - I'm really pleased! According to Dr Terry Wahls, several "primitive" diets give their natives between 10 and 30 times RDA, so that seems about OK to me!

Toxicity - if you don't go mad on organ food too often, what is the problem?

21258 · February 08, 2012 at 8:01 PM

Whoops! After 8oz (226gm) of veal liver for lunch I'm sitting pretty at 35mg of copper, and 40mg of zinc (had a big bowl of chili with bacon, an egg, and avocado for breakfast).

I eat offal 1-2 times a week. Almost always beef/veal liver.

I've never had an issue.

1977 · February 08, 2012 at 12:22 PM

Zinc should be 10x your copper intakes. A zinc intake over 40mg per day is toxic, so similarly a limit of 4mg copper applies. In general an intake of 1.5-3mg copper and 15-30mg zinc is best, being the middle ground between minimum and maximum. Muscle meat is rich in zinc and low in copper, so balance meat with offal.

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