Several studies have reported association of altered levels of lipids and some trace elements with risk factors for cardiovascular disease development in adulthood. Accordingly, the present study aimed to determine the relationship among the serum levels of copper (Cu), zinc (Zn), lipids, lipoproteins and apolipoproteins in preterm infants through an assessment of atherogenic indices shortly after birth. Blood samples were collected within 20 min of birth from 45 preterm infants with gestational ages ranging from 32 to 35 weeks. Serum Cu, Zn, total cholesterol (TC), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDLc), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDLc), apolipoprotein-A1 (apoA1) and apolipoprotein-B (apoB) levels were measured, and the TC/HDLc, LDLc/HDLc and apoB/apoA1 ratios were calculated. Upon determining the correlation between the levels of Cu, Zn and these indices of lipid metabolism, triglyceride (TG) and Cu were found to correlate negatively with birth weight (BW) and the standard deviation (s.d.) score for body weight. Furthermore, Cu levels correlated positively with the TG level and TC/HDLc, LDLc/HDLc and apoB/apoA1 ratios and negatively with the HDLc level and HDLc/apoA1 ratios. However, a stepwise multiple regression analysis indicated that the s.d. score for BW and TG level were significant independent determinants of the Cu level. In contrast, Zn did not correlate with any of these indices. In conclusion, intrauterine growth restriction and the TG level at birth influence Cu levels in preterm infants, whereas atherogenic indices do not affect this parameter.