Most people feel like they’re doing something good for their health when they take calcium. After all, calcium is important for strong bones and for lowering blood pressure. But when you open that bottle of supplemental calcium, you may be getting more than you bargained for. A disturbing study shows that a number of calcium supplements sold in drugstores and health foods stores are contaminated with lead.
Supplemental Calcium and Lead?
Most people don’t expect to swallow lead when they take their daily calcium supplement. Lead is toxic to almost every organ in the body and the symptoms of lead poisoning are often subtle. Most adults with lead toxicity have only nonspecific symptoms such as depression, insomnia, fatigue, nausea, and a loss in libido. Few people would associate these symptoms with lead poisoning from their calcium supplement.
What a Study Showed
In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers tested twenty-three different formulations of supplemental calcium from name brand distributors and pharmaceutical companies. Some were natural calcium from oyster shell, while others were synthetic. To their surprise, they found that four out of fourteen of the refined calcium supplements they tested and four of the seven natural calcium supplements were tainted with lead. Even supplemental calcium put out by well known pharmaceutical companies contained lead. Consumer Reports also did their own study in 1995 and came to a similar conclusion. There’s unacceptable amounts of lead in too many calcium pills.
Supplemental Calcium vs. Dietary Sources of Calcium
What’s the best way to deal with the problem of calcium supplements and lead contamination? It’s wise to stay away from supplemental calcium if at all possible and get calcium from dietary sources instead. A glass of milk has 300 millligrams of calcium and a cup of yogurt has even more. Salmon is a good non-dairy source with a single serving having almost as much as a glass of milk. Tofu is a good vegetarian alternative for adding calcium to the diet.
Is Supplemental Calcium Risky?
There could be other risks associated with supplemental calcium. Calcium supplements block iron absorption and increase the risk of kidney stones. There’s also concern that excess calcium could be deposited in the coronary arteries – leading to calcification. These problems can be avoided by getting calcium from dietary sources such as yogurt and salmon.
The Bottom Line?
It takes a little more planning to get calcium from dietary sources, but it could reduce your risk of being exposed to lead. Why take the chance with your health?