| 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. Its 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 Alzheimers, 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 bodys acidity. Thus, youre
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 wouldnt 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
There has been little or no good research on coral
as a source of calcium or as a treatment for disease. But that doesnt
stop the marketers from making their claims, since dietary supplements
are virtually unregulated. You have no idea whats really in
the bottle or if the stuff is safe. Historically, calcium supplements
havent always been safe: years ago calcium carbonate from
bone meal or oyster shells, for instance, was used in some supplementsbut
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.
Theres no reason to think coral calcium is anything magical,
let alone better than other calcium sources, or worth the extra
Words to the wise: Yes, Okinawans
tend to live long healthy lives and even inspired a bestselling
book, which we discussed in 2001. Heres 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 exercisenot
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