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Coral Calcium

Debunking the wild claims made for supplements is an ongoing battle. The latest cure-all is coral calcium, promoted widely in health-food stores and on the Internet. It’s probably the most expensive calcium pill in history.

Its manufacturers say that coral calcium not only is the best kind of calcium, but also relieves pain and treats some 200 diseases, including Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and lupus. Some infomercials and websites even boldly announce that coral calcium treats or cures cancer. Moreover, they claim that people on the Japanese island of Okinawa have long and healthy lives because their drinking water contains large amounts of coral calcium, which makes the water alkaline and balances the body’s acidity. Thus, you’re supposed to take more coral calcium if your body is especially acidic. However, if your body were as acidic as some of the labels suggest, you wouldn’t survive long enough to swallow the supplement.

Coral and the shells of sea creatures are made of calcium carbonate, the most common and usually cheapest form of calcium supplement (used in Tums, for instance). Coral calcium also supplies other minerals such as magnesium, mostly in small amounts, which you can easily get from foods or a basic multi-vitamin/mineral pill.

There has been little or no good research on coral as a source of calcium or as a treatment for disease. But that doesn’t stop the marketers from making their claims, since dietary supplements are virtually unregulated. You have no idea what’s really in the bottle or if the stuff is safe. Historically, calcium supplements haven’t always been safe: years ago calcium carbonate from bone meal or oyster shells, for instance, was used in some supplements—but was later found to contain high levels of lead. Since then the government and manufacturers took action to reduce lead levels in existing calcium supplements. But new supplements can go untested.

There are, however, plenty of reliable calcium pills. Generic calcium carbonate pills can cost as little as five cents a day, compared to as much as a dollar a day for coral calcium. There’s no reason to think coral calcium is anything magical, let alone better than other calcium sources, or worth the extra expense.

Words to the wise: Yes, Okinawans tend to live long healthy lives and even inspired a bestselling book, which we discussed in 2001. Here’s their secret: a diet based on fruits, vegetables, and grains (with an emphasis on whole grains), plus fish, small amounts of meat and poultry, moderate alcohol intake (if any), no smoking, and lots of hard work and exercise—not coral calcium.


Reference Source 98

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