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Copper toxicity and organ meats

by (440)
Updated about 1 hour ago
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?

0df0b1c6ae16bbb75b4a5efa3d876765
2240 · February 10, 2012 at 9:13 PM

Good thinking +1

4e184df9c1ed38f61febc5d6cf031921
4991 · February 10, 2012 at 9:49 AM

The veg was weighed in grams so I could tap it into fit day...

4e184df9c1ed38f61febc5d6cf031921
4991 · February 10, 2012 at 9:48 AM

Breakfast -slice of black (blood) pudding, 2 slices bacon, 1 sausage, scrambled eggs, mushrooms and tomatoes. Lunch - 3 oz lamb liver cooked in butter, lots of carrots, peas. Dinner - roast pork, lots of brussels sprouts, zucchini (courgette), butter followed by blueberries. Also couple of teaspoons red palm oil and a few brazil nuts.

Febcfb45a6bec019a69101cfa8104d30
440 · February 09, 2012 at 7:07 PM

DePaw, do you have a source for 40mg of zinc being toxic? I've been having trouble finding anything that states a definitive upper limit.

Febcfb45a6bec019a69101cfa8104d30
440 · February 09, 2012 at 3:05 PM

I think daily ratios don't matter as much as average daily ratios, since minerals accumulate in the body rather than being disposed of daily like water-soluble vitamins. So your copper intake may be balanced by zinc intake on days when you don't eat offal.

Febcfb45a6bec019a69101cfa8104d30
440 · February 09, 2012 at 3:04 PM

Thanks for the information, DePaw! That makes a lot of sense--so I'll aim for an average of no more than 4mg of copper (on average) a day.

B8592e62f9804ddabae73c1103d6bcb9
1966 · February 09, 2012 at 11:46 AM

40mg is the Tolerable Upper Intake Level. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/minerals/zinc/ Scroll down to safety.

C4f1a0c70c4e0dea507c2e346c036bbd
4111 · February 08, 2012 at 9:13 PM

Besides being hornier

C4f1a0c70c4e0dea507c2e346c036bbd
4111 · February 08, 2012 at 9:13 PM

HOw is more than 4o mg of zinc toxic? I take 100 mg a day without an issue.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46
41471 · February 08, 2012 at 7:27 PM

Interesting that muscle meat is essentially in the correct ratio of Zn/Cu, while liver/offal is unbalanced in the opposite direction. Hmmm...

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f
8933 · February 08, 2012 at 5:54 PM

Wow, impressive!!! What meats did you eat? Or do you eat 9 cups of veggies?

685e3c967e63b4eacccf02628fd9a3ac
1026 · February 08, 2012 at 8:19 AM

The rich source of zinc is the rest of the animal...

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5 Answers

Febcfb45a6bec019a69101cfa8104d30
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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).

0df0b1c6ae16bbb75b4a5efa3d876765
2240 · February 10, 2012 at 9:13 PM

Good thinking +1

3eca93d2e56dfcd768197dc5a50944f2
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11682 · 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.

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4991 · 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?

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f
8933 · February 08, 2012 at 5:54 PM

Wow, impressive!!! What meats did you eat? Or do you eat 9 cups of veggies?

4e184df9c1ed38f61febc5d6cf031921
4991 · February 10, 2012 at 9:48 AM

Breakfast -slice of black (blood) pudding, 2 slices bacon, 1 sausage, scrambled eggs, mushrooms and tomatoes. Lunch - 3 oz lamb liver cooked in butter, lots of carrots, peas. Dinner - roast pork, lots of brussels sprouts, zucchini (courgette), butter followed by blueberries. Also couple of teaspoons red palm oil and a few brazil nuts.

4e184df9c1ed38f61febc5d6cf031921
4991 · February 10, 2012 at 9:49 AM

The veg was weighed in grams so I could tap it into fit day...

246ebf68e35743f62e5e187891b9cba0
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21405 · 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.

Febcfb45a6bec019a69101cfa8104d30
440 · February 09, 2012 at 3:05 PM

I think daily ratios don't matter as much as average daily ratios, since minerals accumulate in the body rather than being disposed of daily like water-soluble vitamins. So your copper intake may be balanced by zinc intake on days when you don't eat offal.

B8592e62f9804ddabae73c1103d6bcb9
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1966 · 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.

Febcfb45a6bec019a69101cfa8104d30
440 · February 09, 2012 at 3:04 PM

Thanks for the information, DePaw! That makes a lot of sense--so I'll aim for an average of no more than 4mg of copper (on average) a day.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46
41471 · February 08, 2012 at 7:27 PM

Interesting that muscle meat is essentially in the correct ratio of Zn/Cu, while liver/offal is unbalanced in the opposite direction. Hmmm...

C4f1a0c70c4e0dea507c2e346c036bbd
4111 · February 08, 2012 at 9:13 PM

Besides being hornier

B8592e62f9804ddabae73c1103d6bcb9
1966 · February 09, 2012 at 11:46 AM

40mg is the Tolerable Upper Intake Level. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/minerals/zinc/ Scroll down to safety.

C4f1a0c70c4e0dea507c2e346c036bbd
4111 · February 08, 2012 at 9:13 PM

HOw is more than 4o mg of zinc toxic? I take 100 mg a day without an issue.

Febcfb45a6bec019a69101cfa8104d30
440 · February 09, 2012 at 7:07 PM

DePaw, do you have a source for 40mg of zinc being toxic? I've been having trouble finding anything that states a definitive upper limit.

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