Get the Lead Out! Could There Be Lead in Your Calcium Supplement?

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.

Best Calcium Supplements? A Calcium Supplement Comparison

Caltrate, CalMax, PremCal, Coral Calcium, Calcium Carbonate, and Calcium Citrate)

With so many calcium supplements to choose from, how are you to know which are the best calcium supplements for you? Below is a comparison between AlgaeCal Plus and the leading calcium supplements on the market. (Caltrate, CalMax, PremCal, Coral Calcium, Calcium Carbonate, and Calcium Citrate)

All popular calcium supplements are inorganic or laboratory-made with the exception of AlgaeCal. Most calcium supplements contain neither trace minerals nor the clinically proven bone building vitamin combination of D3, K2 and Strontium.

Caltrate Caltrate is a very inexpensive calcium carbonate product usually sold with vitamin D2, the synthetic form of vitamin D which has been proven in clinical studies to be less effective than the natural vitamin D3 form (1a). It is in a tablet form rather than gelatin capsules, and tablets are a less bio-available delivery system (2a). The tableting requires many additives of questionable value such as “cellulose, crospovidone, FD and C blue No. 2, red No. 40, and yellow No. 6, Magnesium Stearate, polysorbate, povidone, sodium croscarmellose, starch, sucrose, titanium dioxide, triacetin”.

Caltrate contains none of the other clinically proven bone building ingredients such as trace minerals, magnesium, Vitamin K2, and Strontium. Also, the calcium form does not compare to organic, whole food, plant-sourced AlgaeCal. The price is very low, but it seems you are getting what you pay for – the lowest quality ingredients possible in the least bio-available form (tablet) along with a long list of additives.

CalMax CalMax is laboratory-made Calcium Gluconate together with Magnesium and Vitamin C in an effervescent powder form. This product misses the mark for bone growth because it contains none of the other clinically proven bone building ingredients such as trace minerals, vitamin D, Vitamin K2, and Strontium. Also, the calcium form does not compare to organic, whole food, plant-sourced AlgaeCal

PremCal PremCal is inorganic calcium carbonate from limestone rock with an insignificant amount of Magnesium. It is available in three strengths of vitamin D to accommodate varying levels of sun exposure. This product has been positioned primarily for fighting PMS. PremCal misses the mark for bone growth because it contains none of the other clinically proven bone building ingredients such as trace minerals, Vitamin K2, and Strontium. Also, the calcium form does not compare to organic, whole food, plant-sourced AlgaeCal.

Coral Calcium Coral Calcium comes from above-sea fossilized deposits, or below-sea dredging operations which vacuum the coral sands, mainly from Okinawa, Japan. Coral Calcium was popularized in 2003 by a television infomercial which was later removed by the FTC/FDA for false and unsubstantiated advertising claims. The product was not in question so much as the exaggerated claims of disease healing that were made.

Coral calcium is significantly different from AlgaeCal. To start with, coral is an animal and AlgaeCal is from a plant. Coral Calcium is heat treated to remove heavy metals, so all organic material is destroyed. AlgaeCal is live harvested and cold processed so it retains nutritional value. In fact AlgaeCal contains much higher magnesium plus it has 12 times more trace minerals per gram than coral calcium. Coral Calcium is offered in combination with many different ingredients, but never with vitamin K2 or Strontium, two of the best clinically proven bone health builders. No credible clinical studies have been done on coral calcium showing any therapeutic benefit. AlgaeCal has a significant clinical trial showing excellent results. Learn more…

Calcium Carbonate Calcium Carbonate is the most common source of calcium on store shelves today, claiming about 70% of the market share. It is cheap and readily available, and has been used with moderate success in many clinical studies, mainly for slowing bone loss in post-menopausal women rather than growing new bone to any significant degree as we are accomplishing in the AlgaeCal Bone Health Program.

Calcium Carbonate products miss the mark for bone growth because they typically contain few of the other clinically proven bone building ingredients such as trace minerals, vitamin D, magnesium, Vitamin K2, and Strontium. Also, the calcium form does not compare to organic, whole food, plant-sourced AlgaeCal.

Calcium Citrate Calcium Citrate is Calcium chelated (chemically bound) to Citric Acid in order to offer slightly higher bio-availability than it’s main competitor, Calcium Carbonate. It is generally more expensive than Calcium Carbonate but really misses the mark for bone growth because it generally contains few or none of the other clinically proven bone building ingredients such as trace minerals, vitamin D, Vitamin K2, and Strontium. Also, laboratory-made calcium citrate does not compare to organic, whole food, plant-sourced AlgaeCal.

To learn about an innovative Plant-Sourced Calcium Supplement called AlgaeCal please visit best calcium supplements References

1a. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2006 Jan;98(1):72-7. Epub 2005 Oct 20 Differential Effects of Vitamin D Analogues on bone formation and resorption

2a. Heaney RP. Factors influencing the measurement of bioavailability, taking calcium as a model. J Nutr. 2001 Apr;131(4 Suppl):1344S-8S

Calcium Supplementation – Benefit vs Risk – A Checklist for You

Calcium supplements are more widely used in the world than any other dietary supplement including all minerals, vitamins, and herbal, marine, animal or apiary products. For example, the National Centre for Health Statistics shows that in USA 6 out of 10 women over 60 years of age take a calcium supplement. It is the most abundant mineral in the body and essential to a wide range of critical body functions, as well as its known role in bone structure. Yet there are widely published results from the medical world warning of dangers in calcium supplementation (particularly in the field of heart and stroke attack probabilities) and advising to obtain all calcium from food and avoid calcium supplements. This has led to widely differing views from medical professionals as to the advisability or otherwise of taking calcium supplements. Which in turn has led to confusion in the mind of many consumers, as to just what they personally should do? We do not want to add to that confusion but feel a checklist of the key factors would help consumers make a more informed decision as to what action to take to maximise their long-term health and longevity.

To start the checklist you first need to establish your current daily intake of calcium from food. Obviously you cannot do this in highly accurate detail but all we are looking for is placing your intake in broad bands.

  • Under 500 mg elemental calcium per day
  • 500-1,000 mg elemental calcium per day
  • Over 1,000 mg elemental calcium per day

To make this calculation you need to write down a list of the foods you would eat and their approximate amounts on an average day. Then from the Internet obtain a Calcium Food Chart, there are many available and calculate your daily calcium intake.

This should place you in one of the board bands shown above.

Next we need to look how this intake measures up against your requirement. Charts on requirements based on age and sex are also readily available on the Internet. You need to print one of these off.

From this chart you will see that young children on a normal diet are likely to be getting adequate calcium. Teenage children may need checking but given they have normal appetite/intake and reasonable diet makeup they should be fine as well.

When we come to the adult / middle age stage, if we are in the 1,000 mg per day plus band for our intake there is no real worry for either sex.

However if you are in the 500-1,000 mg per day band we have to add some more factors to our checklist.

  • Family History
  • Heart Health

First your Family History. This gives your likely genetic effect on any development of weak bones or osteoporosis. If you have a parent or close relative that has had osteoporosis or history of bone fractures and you are in this band of 500 mg-1,000 mg intake you need to look at a calcium supplement to take your total intake up to the 1,200+ mg mark. However before doing that you need to look at the second point – your Heart Health, specifically those factors relating to heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and family history of heart disease. If you have these factors present you will need to try to get your calcium intake up by food. If this is difficult you can look at alternative food based calcium supplements rather than conventional calcium carbonate/citrate supplements.

Finally coming to the most important group of all – the older age group. Here based on requirement we group women from menopause on and men from 65 on, in this group the requirement is quite high and often their dietary intake of calcium is declining. If their intake is well over the 1,000 mg band they should be fine. Although if there is a Family History of osteoporosis it may pay to have a check bone scan.

However if you end up in the 500 mg-1,000 mg band you are likely to need a calcium supplement. It is unlikely that you will be able to lift or change your diet sufficiently to ensure adequate calcium levels unless you are already at the top end of the band. This requirement will be even more urgent if your Family History includes osteoporosis. But again this is tempered by your Heart Health situation. If this is not good you should check with your health professional and consider one of the food based calcium supplements. Some information on Calcium Supplementation and Heart Attacks was given in a previous article.

So to summarise, if you:

  • Calculate what your current calcium intake is
  • Based on age and sex read off your requirement
  • If requirement is greater than intake
  • Provide difference by (a) modifying diet or (b) adding a calcium supplement
  • Decision on (a) or (b) depends on Family History and Heart Health factors
  • If (b) look at use of a food based calcium supplement

Carrying out this checklist should allow decisions in your calcium intake to give you the best combination of benefits and risks.