Are plant-based calcium supplements, like AlgaeCal, better than regular calcium supplements?
contains calcium, magnesium and trace minerals derived from algae with added vitamin D. AlgaeCal Plus
also includes added vitamins C and K, boron, and additional magnesium. Testing by ConsumerLab.com in 2011 found AlgaeCal Plus
to also contain a higher amount of lead (a toxic heavy metal) than many other calcium-containing supplements. Studies sponsored by the makers of AlgaeCal
found that it increased bone mineral density in healthy men and women, although there were weaknesses to the study design. There do not appear to be any studies comparing the effects of AlgaeCal
to other forms of calcium, such as calcium carbonate or calcium citrate in people nor to other calcium + vitamin D supplements. For more about this, plus evidence for other forms of calcium, see the Calcium Supplements Review >>
We were recently informed by a CL member that AlgaeCal provided the following information in response to the member's inquiry about lead in AlgaeCal Plus
. In the response, AlgaeCal appears to acknowledge the amount of lead found by ConsumerLab.com in 2011, but provides information which we consider misleading regarding how that amount of lead compares to what is found in the U.S. diet:
"There are 5.2 mcg of lead in a daily dosage of 4 capsules of AlgaeCal Plus. It is just like taking a daily serving of other typical plant foods according to the FDA's publication, Total Diet Study Statistics on Elements Results (December 11, 2007): Food Amount of Lead in a 4 Ounce Serving Mixed nuts, roasted 10.2 mcg Brussels sprouts, fresh, boiled 7.9 mcg Sweet potato, fresh, baked 7.2 mcg Spinach, boiled 7.0 mcg Avocado, raw 4.5 mcg. Furthermore, the US Government's Centers For Disease Control publication 'Inorganic Lead Exposure, Metabolism and Intoxication' states that 'typical intakes of lead from food, beverages and inhaled air are in the order of 300 to 500 mcg per day.' "
The most recent Total Diet Study (FDA 2014
) shows much lower
amounts of lead in foods than AlgaeCal states above. The FDA found no detectable lead
in peanuts or Brussels sprouts and, based 3 oz servings, only, 1.1 mcg in sweet potatoes (0.013 mcg/gram or mg/kg), 0.3 mcg in spinach (0.004 mcg/g) and 0.085 mcg in avocado (0.001 mcg/g). We could not find the CDC publication referenced by AlgaeCal, but found another CDC publication (ATSDR Public Health Statement for Lead 2007
) which states that, based on recent studies, "the average dietary intake of lead was about 1 microgram (a microgram is a millionth of a gram) per kilogram of body weight per day." For an adult weighing 70 kg (154 lbs), this would be 70 mcg -- nowhere near the 300 to 500 mcg stated above. In short, the amount of lead in AlgaeCal Plus
than in most foods and calcium supplements and adds significantly to one's intake of lead, although it would not be likely, in itself, to cause toxicity in an adult.
Also see these related CL Answers:
How much calcium from supplements is too much? >>
Is calcium hydroxyapatite really better than other forms of calcium? >>
Is it safer to get calcium from foods than from supplements? How about from calcium-fortified orange juice and non-dairy milks? >>
This CL Answer initially posted on 8/26/2015.
Last updated 8/2/2017.