3 Reasons to Beware Your Calcium Supplement

Updated: April 26, 2022

The Truth About Strontium Supplements

Someone may have pulled a trick on you. How so? If you bought and take a mainstream calcium tablet, it may be because the seller kept the most crucial detail from you – that it’s made from rock!

But it gets worse. Read on to learn 3 reasons that will make you flush the last of your calcium supplements down the drain, and say ‘good riddance!’

Is Your Calcium Giving You False Advertising?

It’s funny how sometimes we fool ourselves and each other with euphemisms. Granted, sometimes the intention is a good one: to soften, or alter the hard reality. For example, rather than say someone is fat and bald, we say that they have ‘a few extra pounds’ and are ‘thinning on top’.

And we soften the hard reality with things that we consume too. It starts when we’re very young. We ask our moms ‘what’s for dinner?’ and she says ‘pork’ because it sounds better than pig!

The best marketers also make very good use of euphemisms. In fact that is what advertising is all about: to put a product in the best possible light, while avoiding the shady aspects that would stop you from buying – if you only knew.

Does this happen with calcium supplements? It sure does! 90% of calcium supplements are made from limestone or marble rock, but that doesn’t sound so appealing, does it?

So marketers use the term ‘calcium carbonate’ instead, because it has more appeal.

It is not false advertising, as it falls within the legal requirements of a label. And it is effective marketing, because most people do not know what calcium carbonate is. So they skip over that info, if they see it at all, and get swayed by the other images and promises on product labels.

Information Overload – Head In The Sand

With all the information hitting us everyday, we all make many quick decisions with partial amounts of information. It’s usually only possible to drill down to an intermediate level when researching products, but not ALL the way down. For instance, many try to buy American cars, and there are ways to learn if your auto was made, or just assembled in the U.S.

But though it’s satisfying to learn that every car part was made and assembled in the good ole U.S.A, can we ever know the source of the rubber or metal that GM receives and then shapes into a finished vehicle? Not likely, and it’s not a high priority for most people.

But I bet knowing the source of the products you put in your body is much more important to you, and so it should be. So let’s look into the source of typical calcium supplements – calcium carbonate – and then consider if that’s a healthy choice. The answer may surprise you!

Calcium Carbonate – What’s That You’ve Been Eating?

Calcium carbonate is a chemical compound with the formula CaCO3. It is a common substance found in rocks in all parts of the world, and shells of marine organisms, coral and eggshells.

Limestone and marble (that a chemistry teacher knows is made up of calcium carbonate) have been the go-to source materials for calcium supplements since the Roaring 20s. It is extracted from open pit mines with large machinery, pulverized and then ‘reacted’ chemically to produce the powder that is used to make your tablet.

Why Is Your Calcium Tablet Hard as Rock?

There are two main reasons why rock has been, and still is, the popular choice for vitamin manufacturers:

1. Rock is 40% elemental calcium

40% is a very high number, considering that broccoli for instance is about 8% elemental calcium. So for those who don’t always eat as much broccoli as they should (or other veggies) they can get all their calcium needs quickly met in a couple of small tablets.

And small tablets are a significant selling feature. Because many people stop or avoid taking supplements, due to the large size and number of tablets some products require you to swallow, as part of a “Daily Dose”.

2. Rock is cheap

As we learned earlier, calcium carbonate can be found in other places besides rock – like marine shells, coral and eggshells (and these are all used occasionally in some calcium supplements).

But there’s not much that is more plentiful (thus cheaper) on our planet than rock, so that’s why it’s the centerpiece of your calcium supplement.

Those are the good reasons for eating rock, and these positive qualities get passed on to you, the consumer, in the forms of low pricing and small calcium rich tablets.

However, there is a down side of calcium carbonate that the advertisers will never tell you. So I will.

Top 3 Reasons to Avoid Calcium Made From Rock

1. Typical Rock Calciums Increase Heart Attacks

In five studies with more than 8,000 patients, half of whom took traditional calcium carbonate supplements, the supplement users increased their risk of heart attack by about 30 percent. (1) As you might expect, doctors worldwide advised patients to stop taking these calcium supplements due to the shocking results.

There are several reasons that added up to render these tragic statistics.

    • Calcium carbonate supplements typically lack necessary co-factors like vitamin D and K2, both of which have been proven crucial to get the calcium to the bones, and not stuck in the arteries and soft tissues.

Participants took excessive amounts of calcium supplements (1000+ mg per day) leading to a ‘flooding’, or overflow of the bloodstream. The overflow amounts of calcium ended up getting stuck in arteries, leading to arterial constriction.

2. Typical Rock Calciums Only Slow Down Bone Loss

Countless studies have shown that calcium carbonate type supplements slow down, but don’t stop your bone loss (“In trials that reported bone-mineral density as an outcome, the treatment was associated with a reduced rate of bone loss of 0.54%”).(2)

One of the reasons calcium carbonate supplements only slow bone loss is because they are devoid of not just vitamins D3 and K2 but also trace minerals such as manganese, silicon, vanadium and more, that are also necessary for bone building.

Our bones are made up of not just calcium, but also these trace minerals. That is why the best bone building supplements contain them.

As well, trace minerals are necessary to aid and assist calcium in overall bone building. You can think of them as small but important co-stars.

Some Bone Background

From when we’re born we are increasing in height and bone density rapidly until our late teens. Then though our height begins to taper off, our bone density still increases – until about the age of 35. After that we all lose an average of 1% of muscle and bone – every year.

Osteoporosis occurs when your bone density drops below a certain healthy point. Below that point you are susceptible to fractures (as your bones have become almost hollow) from even small bumps and falls you would’ve previously laughed off.

The fracture itself is not the problem. The problem is it stops your normal active lifestyle, as often the fractures in the elderly are of the hip.

It’s being confined to bed for months that weakens your body and allows other more serious issues to get a foothold. It’s things like pneumonia and deep vein thrombosis that creep in – due to weakening fractures – that fast track a downward health spiral and leads to premature death!

The latest evidence shows that 13% of the people who fracture a hip will die within 6 months. Within a year that number increases to 25%! (3)

So though it’s helpful to slow down the problem of thinning bones, calcium carbonate tablets do not stop the problem. So if you do live long enough, you will get osteoporosis, despite all the pills you pop.

3. Typical Rock Calciums Cause Gastrointestinal Problems

If typical rock based calciums stopped your bone loss, and didn’t add to heart attack risk, then this last point would be almost trivial and a necessary price to pay.

But the gas, bloating and constipation and Irritable bowel syndrome that people experience(4) is just added insult to injury. The theory is that it’s because the body does not take well to digesting and absorbing rock.

Feel Like You’re Between a Rock and a Hard Place?

After learning that traditional, typical calcium supplements are rock filled, heart attack inducing, gut wrenching pills that provide false insurance, you probably never want to touch them again.

It’s understandable, but it also leads to a vulnerable feeling. Because who’s minding the store now?

Thankfully newly discovered plant forms of calcium from algae have recently been made available in capsule form. The algae are super high in calcium, and also are loaded with more than 12 trace minerals like vanadium and silica that have been shown to positively affect bone health.

In published clinical studies, participants that regularly took capsules filled with these powdered algaes (that also contained added vitamins D3 and K2) actually increased their bone density, in as little as 6 months!

Because algae are plants, they are naturally more bioavailable to the body; more body friendly. So after a decade of tests on humans, the study results show no changes or incidences of heart attacks, or gastrointestinal discomfort – simply increased bone density and strength.



Article Comments

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  1. Emanuel

    February 8, 2017 , 6:17 am

    Hey, thanks for the post.Really looking forward to read more. Great.


  2. Monica

    February 8, 2017 , 8:58 am

    Thanks for taking the time to comment Emanual. Appreciate it 🙂

    – Monica @ Algaecal

This article features advice from our industry experts to give you the best possible info through cutting-edge research.

Lara Pizzorno
MDiv, MA, LMT - Best-selling author of Healthy Bones Healthy You! and Your Bones; Editor of Longevity Medicine Review, and Senior Medical Editor for Integrative Medicine Advisors.,
Dr. Liz Lipski
PhD, CNS, FACN, IFMP, BCHN, LDN - Professor and Director of Academic Development, Nutrition programs in Clinical Nutrition at Maryland University of Integrative Health.,
Dr. Loren Fishman
MD, B.Phil.,(oxon.) - Medical Director of Manhattan Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and Founder of the Yoga Injury Prevention Website.,
Prof. Didier Hans
PHD, MBA - Head of Research & Development Center of Bone Diseases, Lausanne University Hospital CHUV, Switzerland,