What Are the Facts?
Charlie Skeen, C.N.C
Over the last two years
there has been a lot of attention focused on a supplement called
coral calcium. Coral calcium is claimed to cure cancer, reverse
diabetes, make you live longer, and prevent over 200 diseases.
Most of these claims are made by an individual who calls himself
Dr. Barefoot. It is interesting to note that Barefoot is not a
physician and does not possess a PhD. The fact that Barefoot is
not a physician or does not posses a PhD is not the main issue
here. The main issue is that Barefoot and others are making outrageous
claims that are not only scientifically unproven but are inaccurate
and false. To broadcast these outrageous claims Barefoot has teamed
up with Kevin Trudeau who hosts his present infomercial. To get
some background about them read the information at the end of
We will now examine some of
these seemingly miraculous claims, but first, let’s look at calcium
and its importance to our health.
in the Body
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body with 99% found
located in the bones and teeth. The other 1% is used in the blood-clotting
process, nerve and muscle stimulation, parathyroid hormone function,
and utilization of vitamin D.
Its major function is
to build and maintain bones and teeth in conjunction with phosphorous.
Good cardiovascular health is dependent upon healthy levels of
calcium and magnesium. It also maintains healthy blood pH, preventing
too much acid or alkali, works as a team player for muscle growth
and contraction, and nerve transmission.
Calcium plays a role
in the body’s use of iron, activation of several enzymes, and
assists in the passage of nutrients in and out of cell walls.
As can be seen from
this quick summary of calcium’s role in the human body, it is
essential for maintaining good health. The question is, how much
is really needed? According to Barefoot, the healthiest disease
free people in the world have the highest amount of calcium in
their diet. As an example, proponents of coral calcium say that
the Okinawans who are some of the healthiest long lived people
on earth owe their good health to the coral calcium they receive
in their drinking water. One infomercial even said that the Okinawans
take in 100,000 mg a day of calcium from coral. That amount of
calcium would be impossible to utilize, and would be harmful to
the body. No one on this planet in any culture takes in that much
and Short Life Span?
According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition April
1979, the Masai tribe in Africa take in around 6,000 milligrams
of calcium a day. But the interesting thing is that the average
life span of the Masai based on their study is 40 years old. Also,
they are not free of disease as Barefoot claims people should
be who consume so much calcium.
It is also interesting
to note that the countries that consume the most calcium per capita,
Norway, Finland, Sweden, New Zealand, and the United States have
the most osteoporosis, arthritis, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
While countries that consume the least amount of calcium have
the least amount of osteoporosis, arthritis, cancer, heart disease,
and diabetes. For example, research reveals calcium intake in
the United States averages about 800 mg a day, and the Scandinavian
countries average 1,300 milligrams and more.
Note in the chart below
that the countries that consume the most dairy and receive the
highest amount of calcium also have the highest mortality, or
death per 100,000 from ages 55 through 64. Inversely, those countries
on the chart that consume the least amount of dairy and calcium
have the lowest mortality, or death per 100,000 in this age group.
Mortality Rate and Consumption of Calcium-Rich Milk Protein
Source: International Journal Cardiology 33: 19, 1991.
calcium-rich milk protein
Proponents of coral calcium, such as Barefoot, say that the Okinawans
who are some of the healthiest long lived people on earth owe
their excellent health to the coral calcium they derive from their
drinking water. Is this true? And, how much calcium do they take
in each day? Based on the 25 year Okinawa Centenarian Study
of the health and lifestyle of Okinawan people by Makoto Suziki
MD, Ph.D., Bradley Willcox MD, MS, and D. Craig Wilcox, M.H.Sc,
Ph.D., it was discovered that they averaged 500 mg a day. ( Okinawa
Prefecture Health and Nutrition Survey 1998) This is 300 milligrams
less than the United States, which Barefoot claims has so many
diseases because of a lack of calcium, and 800 milligrams less
than the Scandinavian countries!
Okinawans are the healthiest
long-lived people on earth not because of drinking water with
coral calcium, but because of their lifestyle. For centuries traditional
Okinawans have consumed a diet of at least seven servings of vegetables
and fruits along with grains daily, two servings of soy products,
fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids several times a week, and drink
phytonutrient, antioxidant rich green tea every day . Meat, poultry
and eggs, which most Americans consume a great deal of, make up
only about three percent of the Okinawan diet. They also avoid
overeating, are more physically active all their lives, get plenty
of sunshine, and enjoy strong social and community support.
Along with a healthy
lifestyle and social and mental interaction, they incorporate
an integrative health care system consisting of both Eastern and
Western healing modalities, including the use of herbal tonics.
Diabetes and Coral Calcium
Barefoot and others say coral calcium will protect the body against
diabetes which is a pretty bold statement to make in light of
the fact there is no scientific research to collaborate this claim.
What do the facts reveal? We find the while calcium is important
to the body, the wrong kind and too much can be harmful. For example,
there is a higher rate of diabetes among Okinawans who consume
large quantities of coral calcium. It’s interesting to note that
Hypertension Research of March 2002 reveals that diabetes
is attributed to excessive calcium influx into the cells of the
While calcium is vital
for the healthy regulation of many cellular processes, excessive
levels can be destructive to the cell. An example of this is when
calcium influx activates specific proteases called calpains. These
specific calpain proteases are enzymes that break down other proteins
and have important regulatory roles in cells. When these calpain
proteases are unnecessarily activated due to excessive calcium
inflow they can cause damage to important parts of the cell, in
this case cells that are part of the pancreas which produce insulin
for the control of the body’s blood-sugar. Research has discovered
that defective calpains cause limb-girdle muscular dystrophy and
Type II diabetes while other calpains contribute to degenerative
pathologies such as Alzheimer disease, cataracts, and arthritis.
Another area of concern is oxidative damage related to calcium
metabolism. Cellular structures within cells called mitochondria
produce energy through a process called oxidation, the process
by which the body disassembles fuels with the aid of oxygen. During
this process, calcium is actively taken up. Excessive calcium
levels could produce more oxidizing free radicals causing damage
to the mitochondria.
in the Body
Other areas that excessive calcium contributes to are kidney stones,
constipation, bone spurs on the feet and other parts of the skeleton
such as the spine and neck, and calcium crystals in the muscles.
And, as anyone who suffers from these problems can tell you, they
are very painful and uncomfortable. But it doesn’t stop there
- calcium deposits are found in the mitral valves of the heart
in 1 out of 11 Americans. Even the blood vessels of the extremities,
torso, neck, and eyes are being blocked by calcium contributing
to heart disease and failing eye sight.
Coral calcium advocates like Barefoot say that since so many Americans
are lacking calcium that’s why they have so many muscle spasms
and cramps. What do the results show?
As you will recall in the beginning of this article, we found
that calcium is a stimulant of the nerves and muscles. Excessive
amounts of calcium would over-stimulate the nerves and muscles
causing constipation, abnormal heart rhythms, twitching of the
eyelid, migraines due to blood vessel constriction reducing blood
flow, increased cramping in females, back aches, foot and leg
cramps. Any good book on minerals and physiology will tell you
that magnesium is a nerve relaxer and calcium is a nerve stimulant.
Americans are extremely deficient in magnesium due to commercial
farming, processing of the food, and taking magnesium leachers
such as sugar and sugar products, sodas, sodium fluoride in the
drinking water which binds magnesium preventing its use in the
body, soft water, and medications such as diuretics.
In the International Journal Gynecology Obstetrics, Volume
48, 1995 it brought to our attention that when calcium in the
pregnant woman was more prevalent than magnesium, there is a higher
than normal risk of premature labor due to abnormal muscle cramping.
This doesn’t mean that pregnant women shouldn’t take calcium,
as it is needed for the healthy development of the baby’s skeleton,
but there should be adequate amounts of magnesium taken to prevent
the abnormal muscle cramping as magnesium acts to relax the muscles
Cancer Research, Volume 58, 1998 reveals that older men
who are more prone for cancer of the prostate and who take in
more than 2,000 mg a day of calcium have a 300% increase risk
of developing prostate cancer. The theory is that the high calcium
levels inhibits the body’s ability to utilize Vitamin D. Researchers
have observed that men who have higher levels of active Vitamin
D in their system have lower levels of prostate cancer.
Cancer and Coral
In Barefoot’s infomercial, he claims that coral calcium can cure
cancer and then cites the Journal of the American Medical
Association that calcium can prevent and cure colon cancer.
The report Barefoot is referring to is from 1998 where researchers
at the Strang Cancer Prevention Center in conjunction with another
prominent medical institution said that those who were at risk
for colon cancer could reduce their growth characteristics thought
to be associated with the development of cancer by consuming 1,200
a day of calcium from low fat dairy sources. Please note that
the researchers made no claim that calcium could prevent or reverse
colon cancer. They only pointed out that calcium may
play a role in cancer prevention. As of yet no one has concretely
established that calcium can help or not. In the Harvard
Health Letter they warned; “If you are looking for consistency
in health advice, don’t pay too much attention to the studies
of calcium intake and cancer.”
In the chart below note
that the people who consume the least amount of calcium, such
as the Okinawans and Japanese, have the least amount of the cancers
listed while the people who consume the most calcium have the
most amount of the cancers listed.
|In the chart below
please note that the people who consume the least amount
such as Okinawa, have the least amount of the cancers listed,
while the people
who consume the most calcium have the most amount of the
Yearly Cancer Deaths (per 100,000)
|World Health Organization
Japan Ministry of Health and Welfare 1996
Does taking lots of calcium prevent or reverse bone loss? In the
Journal of Endocrinology Metabolism, Volume 73, 1991, a
study in which women were given 3,000 milligrams of calcium per
day did not stop bone loss. It only slowed it down. Also studies
performed in Europe and the United States have not demonstrated
any reduction in the risk of fractures with increasing calcium
Intake But Stronger Bones
In the American Journal Epidemiology, 1991;133:801-9 Ross
PD, where cited, reveals that although the people take far less
calcium than the Americans (500 to 645 mg a day compared to 800
mg), they have 20% fewer fractures than the people of Japan, while
the Japanese have 40% fewer fractures than the Americans.
The 25 year study of
the Okinawan elderly revealed that their bone density is comparable
to Americans when adjusted for size. And, just like Americans
they lose bone mass as they grow older, but at a reduced rate.
This can be attributed to their healthier lifestyle of increased
physical activity as they age, higher vitamin D levels due to
exposure to sunlight, higher trace mineral intake from their food
and natural drinking water, and high intake of dietary estrogenic
compounds called flavonoids.
Intake and Bone Loss
Although Japanese women consume around 500 milligrams a day of
calcium compared to 800 milligrams and more by American women,
and will be bent over as they age due to the bone becoming softer,
they have far fewer hip fractures. This is in part due to the
fact that they take in far less sodium, averaging 1,500 milligrams
a day, compared to American women who take in an average of 4,000
milligrams a day. A study done at the University of Otago found
that excess salt in the diet increases the loss of calcium through
the kidneys. (Mineral and Electrolyte Metabolism, 1980)
Since sodium competes with calcium in the body for absorption,
a high intake of sodium would contribute to bone loss resulting
in a weakened bone structure becoming more prone to fracture.
Intake and Bone Loss
Another factor that may be responsible for lower fractures and
better bone health in both the Okinawans and the Japanese women
is that they eat less protein daily than American women. Research
done in 1974 by Dr. Linkswiler at the University of Wisconsin
discovered that calcium balance could be maintained at 500 milligrams
a day when the test subjects, young men, ate no more than 47 grams
of protein a day. But when they increased their protein levels
to 142 grams of protein daily, 30 of the 33 test subjects could
not maintain calcium balance even when they took 1,400 milligrams
of calcium a day. Higher protein intake can result in an imbalance
of phosphorous to calcium causing abnormal calcium excretion and
a higher ash produced by protein digestion making the women more
prone to a higher acid pH which needs calcium to buffer the excess
Coral Calcium and pH
Barefoot and others claim that the calcium in coral is excellent
for reducing an over acidic system. And, that too much acid in
the body is the cause of cancer and many other health problems.
While it’s true that too high an acid pH is not conducive to good
health, coral calcium is not the only form of calcium that can
buffer, or reduce acidity. Any form of calcium will do the same
thing. In fact, magnesium and potassium assist in this as well.
and Trace Minerals
Another claim about coral calcium is that it contains 74 trace
minerals that we don’t get in our diet and are needed to maintain
health and overcome disease. While our soil and food supply may
be lacking important trace minerals essential to our health, we
also don’t need to be taking lead, which is found in coral calcium,
into our bodies either. There are many other safer and superior
sources of trace minerals. For example, concentrated green foods
such as alfalfa, barley grass, and others. I have personably have
been using alfalfa for years. Its roots go down 100 feet or more
into the soil absorbing minerals and making them more assimilable.
I will be 51 years old this coming May 2003 and I do not have
a grey hair on my head. It is still a natural dark brown. Some
may say it’s due to heredity but that’s not true because my father
and grandfather starting getting grey hair in their forties. Even
my mother had greying hair. But thanks to the abundance of important
trace minerals and other nutrients found in alfalfa my hair has
been able to maintain its natural color. While I do have any scientific
studies to prove that it is the alfalfa that has prevented my
hair from greying I have heard of reports with a similar experience.
I also attribute my
healthy cholesterol level of 140 to 150 with excellent HDL to
LDL ratios to alfalfa. Alfalfa has saponins and a naturally high
fiber content and is excellent for maintaining healthy bowels
and removal of cholesterol and fats. In the future I will go into
further detail about alfalfa.
The Right Form
of Calcium is Important for Effectiveness and Safety
The whole idea behind taking calcium supplements is to provide
our bodies with a readily safe and effective mineral to assist
in keeping our bones and other bodily processes healthy. No one
wants to take a form of calcium that would not only be minimally
effective, but also causes other health issues. For example, let’s
examine calcium carbonate. This form of calcium has been around
a long time and is still being used by manufacturers of vitamin
and mineral supplements. There are two reasons for that. One it
is the cheapest form to use, and two, two tablets of 1,000 to
1,200 milligrams can be made making people feel that they are
getting a lot of calcium. This is done as a marketing ploy to
Is Calcium Carbonate
Calcium carbonate is used in supplements and in antacids such
as Tums and Rolaids. Many physicians and TV commercials tell people
that these products are good sources of calcium for your bones.
So, while your taking care of your acid indigestion, you supposedly
are helping your bones as well. Unfortunately this is not true.
The use of calcium carbonate, as a supplement or antacid, is known
to cause acid rebound or hypersecretion of stomach acids made
worse when food is eaten resulting in gastric irritation. Research
has shown that those individuals who relied on antacids like Tums
are twice as likely to be hospitalized for ulcers and related
Calcium carbonate is also associated with milk alkali-syndrome,
especially high dosages and/or prolonged use. The alkali, calcium
carbonate, contributes to metabolic alkalosis which is an abnormal
condition of the body fluids because the pH level is greater than
7.44. In other words the body fluids become too alkaline resulting
in symptoms of irritability, nausea, headache, vertigo, weariness,
hypercalcemia, joint stiffness, and renal, or kidney failure.
Other problems associated
with calcium carbonate are constipation, calcium deposits or spurs
on the feet, spine, neck, and other areas of the skeleton, mitral
valves of the heart, calcium crystals in soft tissue such as muscle,
and kidney stones.
Is Calcium Carbonate
Calcium carbonate is very difficult to absorb. In order to absorb
it you must have hydrochloric acid available in sufficient quantities
to digest it. But, as we age we produce less. And, the ironic
part is that taking calcium carbonate buffers the stomach acids
even further compounding the situation. As a result the amount
of calcium being utilized is very low.
What form is coral calcium?
It is calcium carbonate.
A Safer and More Effective Form of Calcium
Calcium citrate is a form of calcium that is easier to absorb,
does not require hydrochloric acid, and can be taken on an empty
stomach. In studies conducted by Dr. Khashayar Sakhaee and Dr.
Howard Keller, it was discovered that calcium citrate had an absorption
rate 22-27% better than calcium carbonate. They also found that
even in those test subjects who had ample levels of hydrochloric
acid they still had poor absorption of calcium carbonate.
(American Journal of Therapeutics, November-December 1999),
(Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 11-99)
What Do the
Facts Reveal About Coral Calcium?
The facts reveal that there is no solid scientific basis for all
of the dramatic and seemingly miraculous health claims for coral
calcium. It is simply calcium carbonate with a lot of trace minerals,
and some of those, such as lead, aluminum, and arsenic, are not
a welcome addition to our body. Additionally, it is more expensive
than other forms of calcium like calcium citrate.
I know that some people
may say that they feel better since taking coral calcium. This
is to be expected in light of the fact that most people are lacking
vital trace minerals which will negatively impact their health.
So it is logical that they would feel better when taking it. These
same people would have improved just as well if they received
these trace minerals from other safer and less expensive natural
supplements such as organically grown alfalfa and other trace
mineral and nutrient rich foods.
and Others Throughout the World Are In Danger
Another area of concern is that the reefs of Okinawa are in great
danger due to sedimentation from large scale development, global
warming, and pollution. Over the last five years over half of
the reefs of Okinawa have been lost. But the reefs of Okinawa
are not the only ones that are being destroyed. Reefs all over
the world are in danger due to blast and poison fishing, over
fishing, sedimentation, pollution, global warming, and bacteria
found in human waste.
According to recent
research by Reef Check, over 16% of the coral reefs in the world
have been lost during the last five years while another 27% are
Our reefs need to be
protected and not exploited because the reefs are rainforests
of the sea providing not just a major tourist attraction for millions
of people, but also providing food for 100 million costal peoples,
protecting our coastlines, and are a source of new medicines.
For those who wish to
keep informed about the state of our reefs go to
www.reefcheck.org, an organization that promotes conservation
of the world’s remaining coral reef ecosystems.
Research On Taking Calcium
1. The majority of calcium should come from diet. Since everyone
is different, the amount needed can vary from person to person,
but it is generally recommended that an average of 1,000 to 1,200
milligrams of calcium should be taken a day. Since most people
get about 800 milligrams from diet, they would only need to take
about 400 to 600 milligrams of extra calcium such as di-calcium
as a supplement, absorbed by the body more efficiently and is
found in Healthful
2. Taking more than
500 milligrams of calcium at a time is poorly utilized. It is
recommended to take your calcium in smaller dosages three times
day. For example, an additional 500 milligrams could be taken
in three dosages of about 166 milligrams each.
3. By taking di-calcium
malate, found in Healthful
- Bone™, you do not have to worry about having enough
hydrochloric acid to digest it and absorb it because hydrochloric
acid is not required. Also, unlike other forms of calcium, such
as carbonate, you don't have to worry about the negative side
effects such as constipation, gas, bloating, kidney and gall stones.
4. Balance your calcium
with equal or greater amounts of magnesium such as Albion Labs
patended di-magnesium malate which is also absorbed more efficiently.
This form of magnesium is also found in Healthful
- Bone™. If you are taking 200 milligrams of calcium,
take 200 milligrams of magnesium. Research revealed in the Journal
American College Nutrition, Volume 13, 1994, demonstrated that
ingesting 826 milligrams of magnesium did not prevent the absorption
of 812 milligrams of calcium. It has also been demonstrated that
when higher amounts of magnesium was present less calcium was
required. Also, there is more of a magnesium deficiency in the
western diet than calcium a factor that many researchers claim
to be responsible for high rates of sudden-death heart attack.
This is due to the fact that when calcium is too high in the blood,
it causes an electrolyte, or mineral imbalance which has a high
probability of causing the heart to go into a spasm resulting
in sudden-death heart attack.
5. Taking synergistic
co-factors such as vitamin D3, folate as the biocactive form,
L5-MTHF, and K as K1 and K2, MK4 and MK7, the bioactive form of
B-12, as methylcobalamin, and boron all available in Healthful
- Bone™ along with a balance of organic essential nutrients
from the land and the sea found in
Greens & Reds™, improves the effectiveness of calcium
and magnesium in building and maintaining healthy bone tissue
as well as overall health.
As was stated at the beginning of this article, Robert Barefoot
is not a doctor and is not a PhD. Barefoot attended the Northern
Alberta Institute of Technology where he studied chemistry from
1964 to 1967. He graduated with honors in 1967 receiving a diploma,
not a doctorate.
Many people claim that
Barefoot is a “world-renowned chemist” and yet he has no known
published medically related studies. But between 1968 and 1972,
he did publish six scientific research papers on analytical chemistry
and digenesis which is the study of changes that occur in sediments
as they are buried in other sediments, in particular the formation
of limestone, which has nothing to do with human health or biology.
He has also patented a specialized process for extracting ore
and managed two companies that serviced the petroleum industry
On Kevin Trudeau and False Advertising
Due to Kevin Trudeau’s false advertising on six infomercials he
developed in 1998, he became the object of attention by the Federal
Trade Commission (FTC File No. 942 3278). In order for Kevin Trudeau
to continue to make infomercials he had to sign an agreement with
the FTC to (1) pay $500,000.00 back to consumers who had purchased
products on the infomercials, (2) no longer make false claims
for products, and (3) establish an escrow account of $500,000.00
to guarantee compliance.
According to the Wall
Street Journal Kevin Trudeau served nearly two years in prison
in the early 1990's for pleading guilty to larceny in a Cambridge,
Massachusetts state court in connection with the deposit of $80,000.00
in worthless checks. The records show that Kevin Trudeau masqueraded
as a physician to increase his credibility with the bank officials.
Then in 1991 he pled guilty to credit card fraud in a Boston federal
district court. He took advantage of people who ordered his memory-improvement
courses being offered at the time by using their credit card numbers
illegally for himself.