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Coral Calcium: The Story Behind the Hype

Jeffrey Bland, Ph.D.

The latest multilevel marketing nutritional supplement to be touted to the general public as having “magic” curative properties is coral calcium supposedly derived from the island of Okinawa, in the Philippines. It has be claimed by the marketers of coral calcium to be good for the prevention and treatment of virtually every health condition from cancer, diabetes, arthritis, heart disease to osteoporosis. It is said to be effective for so many conditions because it “is a revolutionary product that neutralizes the body’s acidity”. So what is the true story behind this “new” form of calcium?

As the February 2003 Berkeley Wellness Letter states:

Coral and the shells of sea creatures are made of calcium carbonate (CaCO3), the most common and cheapest form of calcium supplement (used in Tums, for instance). Coral calcium also supplies other minerals such as magnesium, mostly in small amounts. There is little or no good research on coral as a source of calcium or as a treatment for disease.

In essence as the article points out the promotion of coral calcium is effective in selling a 5-cent supplement for a dollar. As with all fads, however, there must be some fire to produce the smoke. What is the background of coral calcium that could have resulted in the exaggerated claims that have been made for it and the sales of the product that have resulted from these claims?

It has been shown that coral calcium is composed principally of calcium carbonate, but that the organisms that deposit the calcium also concentrate other trace minerals from seawater including toxic elements that may be present in the intertidal regions. Because coral calcium resembles human bone with it porous structure it was tested as a substitute for bone graft to human or animal bone in the 1980’s. It was thought that because it may be well tolerated in that it had no foreign animal protein.

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