Even though these falsehoods have been officially (and extensively) debunked, similar exaggerations can still be found on a number of alternative health web sites.
How did the hype get started? The belief that coral calcium had special properties was based on the fact that people in Okinawa, who drink water rich in coral calcium, have the longest life spans in the world. But—as the researchers in charge of the Okinawa Centenarian Study pointed out…
“Although Okinawa may have the world’s highest concentration of centenarians, as well as extremely low mortality rates from diseases common in the West such as coronary heart disease, breast and prostate cancers, research shows that it has very little to do with their drinking water, as we explain in detail in our book “The Okinawa Program”. Although drinking hard water (high mineral content that includes calcium, magnesium and other minerals) gives the Okinawans a boost in their calcium intakes, they still fall far below the calcium intakes of most Western countries.
…We do not endorse coral calcium supplements from Okinawa for the following reasons:
- Coral calcium supplements have not been proven to be any more effective than regular calcium supplements—though they are far more costly.
- We are not aware of any scientific studies that support any of the more dramatic health claims made for coral calcium supplements.
- The claim that you can enhance health by making the body more alkaline has no basis in science.
So what’s the reality behind the hype?
Calcium is well-known for its ability to help build strong bones and teeth. It has many other important functions in the body as well, so consuming an adequate amount is important. Unfortunately, many people don’t get enough of this vital mineral in their diets, so supplements may be needed to make up the difference.
Coral is largely composed of calcium carbonate, a naturally-occurring compound used in various over-the-counter supplements, drugs and fortified foods. Thus, although coral calcium hasn’t been tested in any large, well-controlled studies in humans, there’s every reason to believe it’s a perfectly decent source of bioavailable calcium.
Is that ALL there is to it? Apparently so. Although it’s claimed that coral calcium is absorbed better than other calcium supplements, the only proof of this is one small, poorly-designed study comparing it to calcium carbonate.
Needless to state, there are no comparisons to other supplemental forms, such as calcium citrate or calcium citrate malate—both of which are also superior to calcium carbonate. While much is made of the fact that coral calcium is “ionic”, this is true for ANY salt…this is nothing unique to coral calcium.
What about its (heavily advertised) ability to “alkalize the body”? Once again, this isn’t a special property of coral calcium…common bicarbonate or citrate salts can do the job just as well, if not better.
Coral calcium is also said to contain “74 trace minerals” which allegedly contribute to its effects, although I’ve yet to see a comprehensive (and reliable) list of what they are; let alone how much of each is in a typical serving.
Bottom line: if you need a calcium supplement, coral calcium will do the trick…but that’s about it. There’s no need to prefer it over other, more conventionally-sourced products…or pay a premium price for it.
Coral calcium supplements are available in tablets, powders and liquids. Since products vary, it’s important to check the label to get the specific recommended dosage for that brand. If you wish to supplement with coral calcium, it’s best to buy from a reputable company that tests its products to make sure they aren’t contaminated with heavy metals.
What about Coral Calcium Side Effects?
Coral calcium is generally well tolerated, but side effects such as gastrointestinal discomfort and constipation can occur. To reduce these side effects, the dosage of calcium should be divided and taken with plenty of water.
In addition, taking magnesium supplements along with calcium helps to balance both minerals and minimize side effects. Calcium absorption is also enhanced by Vitamin D.
Our recommended online resource for coral calcium, BodyBuilding.com, offers plenty of options when it comes to supplementation.