Be Wary of Coral Calcium and Robert Barefoot
Stephen Barrett, M.D.
"Coral calcium" is a dietary supplement said to be derived from "remnants of living coral that have fallen from coral reefs, as a result of wave action or other natural processes." It is also said to be mined from the old ocean beds at the base of the coral reefs in Okinawa, Japan [1:120]. Simply put, "coral remnants" are limestone, which coral organisms originally manufacture as a protective shell. Since coral reefs are protected by law, "coral calcium" is made by grinding up limestone that no longer contains live organisms.
Limestone has no unique health properties. It is merely calcium carbonate, with some magnesium and trace amounts of many other minerals. Limestone fertilizer, available at garden centers, costs as little as a dollar for an 80-pound bag. (Note: Limestone fertilizer is not suitable for human use as a calcium supplement. I mention it only to illustrate how inexpensive the raw ingredients can be.) For people who need to consume extra calcium, purified calcium carbonate pills are safer and far less expensive than "coral calcium." But Robert R. Barefoot, of Wickenberg, Arizona, would like you to believe that limestone obtained from Okinawa provides "the scientific secret of health and youth" and can cure cancer. His ideas are promoted through books, lectures, his Web site, an audiotape, a 30-minute infomercial , interviews, and thousands of Web sites that sell "coral calcium" products. Although his sales pitch is preposterous, he has gained a wide audience. During the past two years, I have received more than 200 e-mail inquiries stimulated by his infomercial, which is more than I have received about any other product. His book, The Calcium Factor , first published in 1992, has undergone five editions and on January 31, 2003 enjoyed an Amazon Books sales rank of #412, which is extremely high. On the same day, his Death By Diet , originally published in 1996 and now in its fourth edition, was ranked #1790; and his other book, Barefoot on Coral Calcium , was ranked #8114. Searching Google for "Robert Barefoot" yielded more than 31,000 hits, and searching for "coral calcium" found more than 80,000! In January and February, Barefoot's infomercial was among the most frequently shown infomercials and was the most frequent one connected with a dietary supplement. In March 2003, a newer infomercial version hit #1 on the frequency list and a Google Search for "coral calcium topped 120,000. Barefoot's Cure America Web site lists his email address as email@example.com, which, considering his probable sales volume, is probably an apt description.
Dubious ClaimsHere is a sampling of Barefoot's claims followed by my comments in red type. Except as noted, all are from his infomercial "A Closer Look."
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