On Nutrition by Ed Blonz

Coral Calcium as Good as Any Other -- No Better, No Worse

DEAR DR. BLONZ: What do you know about coral calcium? I was at a lecture where the speaker attributed anti-cancer properties to this so-called “unique” form of calcium. I just sat and shook my head, but was never given an opportunity to question the claims. I remain very suspicious, but wanted to ask you if there is any substance there. -- C.B. Seattle

DEAR C.B.: Coral calcium might be considered “unique” in that it comes from the structural matrix of ocean coral, but there is no evidence that it provides anything more significant or miraculous than “regular” calcium, an essential mineral nutrient.

The origins of coral calcium as a dietary supplement include an association with the long life of the people on the island of Okinawa. There have been unscientific statements about how these people’s intake of coral calcium has prevented or cured a veritable laundry list of diseases. There is also talk of coral calcium neutralizing toxic materials, and bringing the body into balance due to its alkaline (as opposed to acidic) nature. These statements are all sales pitch, and no evidence. A case brought by the Federal Trade Commission reflects these issues (tinyurl.com/m4t8d2y), but the products continue to be sold and the nonsense lives on.

Coral calcium is a type of calcium carbonate, the most common form of calcium supplements. And guess what? All forms of calcium carbonate are already alkaline. This is why it’s a common ingredient in many antacids. There is nothing special about the alkaline properties of coral calcium. As for the ability to “neutralize toxins” and cure or prevent disease, again, there is no evidence of efficacy.

As with all essential minerals, we need calcium. No surprise there. But there’s nothing miraculous about this particular type. You were right to be skeptical.

DEAR DR. BLONZ: What are the best food sources for niacin, thiamin and riboflavin, and what do these nutrients do? -- D.F., Charlotte, North Carolina

DEAR D.F.: All three of these B-vitamins are essential nutrients, ones that must be provided by the diet, as the body cannot produce them in sufficient quantities by itself. They are all involved in facilitating the release of energy, i.e., calories, stored in proteins, fats and carbohydrates.

Thiamin, also known as vitamin B1, is also required for normal functioning of the heart and nervous system. Food sources of thiamin include animal products (eggs, poultry, fish, meats and organ foods), whole grains, legumes, nuts, potatoes, and any food fortified with this vitamin. Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, is also required for normal cell metabolism and in the synthesis of hormones and DNA. Food sources include organ meats, poultry, seafood, nuts, green vegetables and legumes.

Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, is important for the health of the skin, the lining of the digestive system, and the lungs. Food sources include liver, enriched milk and milk products, meats, seafood, enriched grains, asparagus, broccoli, avocados, Brussels sprouts, eggs and green leafy vegetables. For more information on these and other vitamins, see medlineplus.gov/vitamins.html.

Send questions to: “On Nutrition,” Ed Blonz, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to questions@blonz.com. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.