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zIs Your Calcium Supplement Poisoning You? High Lead Content Found in Leading Brands!

Mainstream medicine has been telling women for years to avoid osteoporosis by taking supplemental calcium. And, on that recommendation, millions of women are taking substantial doses every day.

Unfortunately, you may be risking your health in doing so. As far back as 20 years ago, authorities recognized that calcium supplements often contained lead. We’ve been warned of the dangers of lead poisoning. Lead has been banned from paint, gasoline, and any number of other environmental and dietary sources.

Although  steps were supposedly taken to minimize the risk, a new study shows that many leading over-the-counter calcium supplements still contain significant amounts of lead-and that consumers are not provided with the information they need to make safe choices.

In a 1993 published study, researchers for the University Of Florida at Gainesville analyzed samples of 70 different calcium supplements, of which seven were “natural,” 14 were refined, and two were available by prescription only. The study found that the lead content of the supplements varied widely, and some that were thought to be low in lead, contained surprisingly higher levels than expected.

For example, some experts have recommended that  consumers avoid “natural” or “oyster-shell” calcium supplements, suggesting that they contain more lead  than the others. The study found, however , that while some were at the higher end of the scale, others in the natural category had undetectable lead levels. And some of the widely recommended “refined” or synthetic supplements also contained excess lead.

The study also showed that some preferred name brand formulations had higher lead content than their generic counterparts. Even some of the products made by nationally recognized pharmaceutical companies had high lead levels.

In each category, there were at least some products found to contain excess lead.


How much lead is too much lead?

calcium supplementsWe know that lead is dangerous – it can cause anemia, hypertension, and brain and kidney damage in adults and can stunt children’s physical and neurological development.

But when it comes to determining what level of lead is safe, there is much disagreement.

Within the past 10 years, the public was still told that it was safe to consume as much as 75 micro­ grams of lead per day. Today, however, recommendations are much lower, with some extremists advocating permissible intake levels as low as 1 micro gram per day.

But most authorities fall somewhere in between, agreeing that most people, especially high-risk populations like pregnant and lactating women, as well as infants and children, should consume no more than 6 micro grams of lead per day from all dietary sources.

That’s an important distinction, because supplements are not the only sources of lead in our  lives. The foods we eat can contain traces of lead as well, contributing significantly to our daily intake of the toxic metal. It’s estimated that the average daily dietary intake of lead is less than 5 micro grams, a big improvement over past decades.

But depending on the brand of calcium supplement you use, and the dosage you follow, you may be pushed over the edge and exceeding the recommended intake every day.

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So, exactly how much are we talking about?

The study reported the micro grams of lead a person would consume each day if he or she took enough supplements to reach the recommended calcium intake for several specific populations.

For example, it is recommended that children get 800 mg of calcium per day, while for osteoporosis prevention, women are told to take 1,500 mg each day. The study also analyzed a range of intake for kidney-dialysis patients, a group that often consumes large quantities of calcium supplements as phosphate binders.

Following recommendations can yield dangerous levels

The highest lead levels were found in a refined over-the-counter calcium supplement called (Caltrate, which yielded 1.83 micro grams of lead based on  the children’s RDA, 3.43 for the osteoporosis guideline , and as much as 20.55 micro grams for a dialysis patient taking 15 tablets a day. Roughly similar results were found in calcium supplements manufactured  by Eckerd and Advanced Nutritional Technologies. These three refined products had the highest levels – higher than those of any natural products.

The highest lead level among natural products was found in a supplement called Nature Made which yielded 1.04, 1.95, and 9.75 micro grams of lead respectively.

On the other hand, two different varieties of the most popular over-the-counter calcium supplements, had undetectable lead levels.

Do you need a calcium supplement at all?

An estimated 5 percent of the population takes calcium supplements on a regular basis, and, judging by this study, a significant portion of those people may be exposing themselves to high levels of lead.

But the bigger question is this: Why are so many people taking calcium supplements?

If you follow a healthy plant-based diet, exercise regularly, and abstain from cigarettes and caffeinated drinks you shouldn’t need a calcium supplement at  all. That’s the simplest answer to the question “should I be taking a calcium supplement?”

How to protect yourself from lead poisoning if you take a calcium supplement

But  if you feel that you need supplements, there are ways to protect yourself from lead exposure.

  • This study showed that refined products are not necessarily safer, and neither are big-name brands.
  • Read labels carefully (make sure to only purchase products when they are specifically labeled as having been tested for lead content!).
  • Calculate the amount of lead you’d be taking in each day based on your dosage.
  • Make sure to factor in that you’re probably already getting a few micro grams of lead  just from the food you eat every day.

And while you’re checking out the label, check for aluminum too – a known risk factor for the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

You can read the full text of the published report here

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