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The Taste and Smell Clinic

May 2022

The Role of Copper in Taste and Smell Function

Copper is essential for life. As such it plays an important role in sensory function, particularly smell and taste. Excess copper plays a role in cell death (1). On the other hand too little causes loss of smell and taste.

In an effort to treat a systemic collagen abnormality a copper deficiency was induced in humans (2). While the technique did not correct the collagen pathology it induced a loss of copper and a loss of smell and taste as the copper deficiency was created. Replacement of copper by oral administration (2) gradually corrected the loss of taste and smell. It is notable that trace metals including zinc and nickel (3) play significant roles in smell and taste function.


  1. Kahlson, Martha A. and Dixon, Scott J. Copper-induced Cell Death. Science Magazine. March 2022, Vol. 375 Issue 6586, p. 1231-1232, 1254-1262.

  2. Henkin, R.I., Keiser, H.R., Jaffe, I.A., Sternlieb, I., Scheinberg, I.H. Decreased taste sensitivity after D-penicillamine reversed by copper administration. Lancet 1967; II:1268-1271.

  3. Henkin, R.I., Bradley, D.F. Regulation of taste acuity by thiols and metal ions. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA 1969; 62:30-37.