If your patients have come in to your office recently asking you about the merits of the dietary supplement known as coral calcium they learned about while watching the frequently televised infomercial starring Kevin Trudeau and Robert Barefoot, you’re not alone; and, fielding their questions is very difficult simply because a search for scientific studies involving this type of calcium for the treatment and/or prevention of disease is scarce. (A search of medical, biomedical and alternative health journals turns up no available studies on coral calcium and disease states). An article in Prevention Magazine on this subject indicates that coral calcium is nothing more than an expensive form of calcium carbonate (Schryver, T. Spotlight on coral calcium. Prevention Magazine. Jan. 2003, Vol 55, Issue 1:65).
On June 10, 2003, it was announced that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has charged the marketers of a dietary supplement called Coral Calcium Supreme with making false and unsubstantiated claims about the product’s health benefits. In a complaint filed in federal district court, the FTC alleges that Kevin Trudeau, Robert Barefoot, Shop America (USA), LLC, and Deonna Enterprises, Inc., violated the FTC Act by claiming falsely and without substantiation, that Coral Calcium Supreme can treat or cure cancer and other diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and heart disease. The FTC charges that these and other claims go far beyond existing scientific evidence regarding the recognized health benefits of calcium.
In concert with this action, the FTC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are sending strong warning letters to website operators who are marketing coral calcium products claiming that coral calcium is an effective treatment or cure for cancer and/or other diseases. The FTC states that it is aware of no competent and reliable scientific evidence supporting such claims and that such unsupported claims are unlawful under the FTC Act. Product manufacturers or marketers are obligated by law to submit scientific substantiation for the health claims they make, to the FTC and FDA respectively, in regards to their advertising and product labeling statements.
The FTC states that it authorizes filing a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the best public interest. The complaint is not a finding or a ruling that the defendant actually has violated the law. The case will be decided by the court. (www.ftc.gov/opa/2003/06/trudeau.htm)
In a review article published in the Townsend Letter to Doctors and Patients (June 2003), Jule Klotter addresses some of the health claims mentioned in Mr. Barefoot’s book, Barefoot on Coral Calcium: An Elixir of Life? In his book, Barefoot draws on research (usually without references) to promote his Okinawan coral calcium. The Okinawans are a long-lived and healthy people, according to a 25-year study headed by Dr. Makato Suzuki. Okinawa has the highest percentage of verifiable 100-year olds in the world, and these people are healthy with sharp minds. Their diet consists of fresh produce and grains and regular servings of soy products and fish. Exercise is a way of life for the young and old alike, and citizens maintain a positive spiritual attitude and a low-stress lifestyle. As pointed out by Klotter, all of these factors are related to disease prevention and longevity and nowhere in his book does Barefoot present evidence to show that the intake of coral calcium is among the important factors that accounts for the legendary health and longevity of the Okinawan people. As pointed out by Klotter in his review of Barefoot’s book, “although Mr. Barefoot repeatedly states that mineral intake may not be the only factor in the health and longevity of Okinawans, the book continually emphasizes the health benefits of calcium, specifically Okinawan coral calcium”. An analysis of Okinawan marine coral has been shown to contain calcium oxide, magnesium oxide, silicon oxide, strontium oxide, aluminum oxide and iron oxide. Aluminum has been implicated in illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease, as Klotter points out in his review.
After reviewing the scientific argument and available studies pertaining to the use of coral calcium for the prevention of disease and legendary longevity, Klotter concludes, “it is indeed questionable that this widely-touted supplement is an elixir of life”.
(Klotter J. Townsend Letter to Doctors and Patients, June 2003).
In regards to the recommendation of calcium supplements to patients, I strongly suggest that you take a look at the review article I wrote for Dynamic Chiropractic a number of months ago that can be accessed on their website at:
(URL locator: http://www.chiroweb.com/archives/20/18/23.html)
The article is entitled “Calcium: Requirements, Bioavailable Forms, Physiology and Clinical Aspects”.
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