People who take high doses of natural source calcium could be placing themselves at high risk for cumulative lead toxicity according to research conducted by the University of Arizona. While calcium itself has virtually no toxicity, there is evidence that natural source calcium supplements – those made from bone meal, oyster shell and dolomite may contain heavy metals, including lead. A study conducted by Trent University in Canada where some 70 brands of calcium supplements were tested, found that 25% of the brands exceeded the FDA limit for lead toxicity.
While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has set an upper limit for the amount of lead in a calcium supplement (7.5 micrograms per 1000 milligrams of calcium), calcium supplements are not tested by any regulatory agency for lead content. This is a concern given recent increases in doctor recommendations for calcium supplements to prevent osteoporosis and for those, particularly children, who rely on calcium supplementation as their main source of calcium.
Since it is not feasible for consumers to test supplements for lead contamination, there is generally rampant disregard for the standardization of manufacturing practices and quality control measures. The result is that inferior and unsafe products make their way into the market. As stated in the Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements by Lyle Mac William MSC, FP, “there are no current US regulations that enforce minimum standards of practice, no requirements for pre-market approval, no post-market surveillance, and no site licensing or product licensing required for the manufacturing of dietary supplement is the United States.”
So what guidelines should we use when choosing a calcium supplement or any supplement for that matter?
1. Find a company that owns their own manufacturing facility. Many don’t. Outsourcing often means sacrificing on quality control.
2. Find a company that manufactures its supplements according to GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice). These standards require that manufacturers take proactive steps to ensure that products are safe, pure and effective.
3. Find one of the few companies that manufacturer their supplements using Pharmaceutical Grade standards.
The secret to Pharmaceutical Grade supplements is that they are formulated to exact measurements – just like a prescription that you get from the pharmacy. They yield a higher degree of bio availability which means that your body can absorb them easily. This also guarantees that what is on the label is in the bottle. This in turn can make a huge difference in how supplements improve your health and your quality of life and overall well being.
Oh, and be on the lookout for the term “Medical Grade supplements” – this is a new term being touted by some in the industry. This is a “made up” category which serves to further confuse the already overwhelmed consumer into thinking that they are purchasing a supplement that is approved by the medical community. Don’t fall for the hype! There are only three categories of supplements:
o Animal Grade
o Food Grade
o Pharmaceutical Grade
There are no other grades and 99% of the supplements on the market today are made to Food Grade standards. Without getting too technical, pizza, for example is made to Food Grade standards. One pizza may have 20 slices of pepperoni and another may have 10 slices, yet they are both acceptable as pizzas. This standard is OK for a pizza, but not for a supplement that you are trusting to improve your overall well being or to ward off chronic disease.
So before you plunk down your money for a calcium or any supplement, do some research, wade through the masses of information and misinformation and choose a supplement that is safe, pure and effective. Knowledge after all is power.