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Coral Calcium -
What Are the Facts?

Buyer Beware!

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 this article.

We will now examine some of these seemingly miraculous claims, but first, let’s look at calcium and its importance to our health.

Calcium’s Role 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 calcium.

Calcium, Diseases, 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.

All-Cause Mortality Rate and Consumption of Calcium-Rich Milk Protein
Source: International Journal Cardiology 33: 19, 1991.
Country Mortality Rate
Per 100,000
Age 55-64
Consumption of
calcium-rich milk protein
(excluding cheese)
Finland 686 37.8 grams
Ireland 692 29.3 grams
Denmark 568 22.8 grams
Norway 560 25.1 grams
United States 421 15.8 grams
Germany 366 13.9 grams
Italy 268 8.7 grams
Portugal 208 6.3 grams
Japan 63 4.4 grams

Okinawans and Their Health
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 body.

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.

Oxidative Damage
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.

Calcium Deposits 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.

Muscle Spasms and Cramps
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.

Premature Labor and Calcium
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 and nerves.

Prostate Cancer
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 Calcium
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 of calcium,
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 cancers listed.
Hormone-Dependent Cancer Risk
Yearly Cancer Deaths (per 100,000)
Life Expectancy
Hong Kong
USA 76.8 33 7 28 19
World Health Organization 1996
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 consumption.

Lower 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.

High Sodium 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.

High Protein 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 acid.

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.

Coral Calcium 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 sell supplements.

Is Calcium Carbonate Safe?
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 gastrointestinal problems.

Milk-Alkali Syndrome
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 Effective?
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.

Di-Calcium Malate- A Safer and More Effective Form of Calcium (Albion Labs)
Will not react with stomach acid like calcium carbonate which causes gas and acid rebound. Also, it does not contain lead as found in coral calcium which is calcium carbonate. Research and studies have demonstrated that calcium in the form of Di-Calcium Malate produced by Albion Labs not only has a higher absorption rate than other forms of caclium such as citrate and carbonate, but also remains in the body longer. It also does not produce the negative side effects that other forms of minerals have such as gas, bloating, diarrhea and constiptation, or reduce absorption of other nutrients in the digestive tract as they can block the intestinal villi as they pass through the small intestine during the digestive process.

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.

Okinawa Reefs 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 severely threatened.

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.

Latest Available Research On Taking Calcium
Many cultures around the world get far less calcium than Americans and yet they have far less bone loss and related health issues such as hip fractures. High amounts of calcium, in any form, will not stop bone loss or prevent hip fractures. For years American physicians have been recommending 1,000 to 1,200 mg a day of calcium. However, as research and studies show this is not preventing bone loss or hip fractures.

The World Health Organization recommends 500 milligrams and the United Kingdom 700 milligrams. Dr. Walter Willett, chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of public health agrees with these recommendations. Dr. Willet maintains that most women could get at least half of that through diet and, if necessary, could supplement with a low-dose calcium supplement. The calcium supplement I recommend would be Di-Calcium Malate by Albion Labs. However, it should be taken in a blance of at least 1:1. That would be one part of Di-calcium Malate to one part Di-Magnesium Malate. In other words, if you take a supplement of 100 milligrams of Di-Calcium Malate, take 100 milligrams of D-Magnesium Malate. Both by Albion Labs. Magnesium in the right form, such as Di-Magnesium Malate by Albion Labs, allows for efficient absorption and uitilization of calcium in the body. Having the proper amount of magnesium reduces the body's requirements for higher amounts of calcium.

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.

1. When taking supplements you should balance your calcium with equal or greater amounts of magnesium such as Albion Labs patended di-magnesium malate which is also absorbed and used by the body more efficiently. This form of magnesium is found in professional supplements such as Designs for Health Complete Multi w/Copper 180 capsules and Thorne's Calcum-Magnesium Malate 240 capsules in a one-to-one ratio. If you are taking 200 milligrams of calcium, take 200 milligrams of magnesium or more.

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 along with magnesium.

3. By taking di-calcium malate, found in Designs for Health Complete Multi w/Copper 180 capsules and Thorne's Calcum-Magnesium Malate 240 capsules, and other professional formulas, 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, milk-alkali syndrome or deposits of calcium in the soft tissues, arteries and heart valves.

5. Taking synergistic co-factors such as vitamin D3, folate as the biocactive form, L-5-MTHF, and vitamin K as K1 and K2 as MK7, the bioactive form of B-12, as methylcobalamin, and boron all available in Designs for Health Complete Multi w/Copper 180 capsules improves the effectiveness of the di-calcium malate and and di-magnesium malate in building and maintaining healthy bone tissue as well as overall health.

Background On Barefoot
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

Background 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.


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