AlgaeCal is “the only calcium supplement that increases bone density or your money back.” That very bold and specific claim is what grabbed my attention when a friend asked me to look at this supplement. As the name suggests, AlgaeCal is a plant-based calcium supplement that's derived from algae. If that sounds weird, the supplement does have clinical research. In this review, we'll look at the research and see what they say about this algae calcium supplement. We'll also look at potential side effects too. So is AlgaeCall the real deal or a scam? Let's see what we can discover.
What Is AlgaeCal
It’s a plant-based calcium supplement. The calcium comes from red algae (Lithothamnion superpositum) that have been harvested from the South American Coastline. The company maintains obtaining calcium from living algae is better than other calcium supplements that are mined from the earth. Another name for this algae is algas calcareas.
Every 2 capsules of AlgaeCal Plus has the following ingredients
- Vitamin C (calcium ascorbate) 25 mg (42% DV)
- Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) 800 IU (200% DV)
- Vitamin K2 (menaquinone-7) 50 mcg (63% DV)
- Calcium (algas calcareas) 360 mg (36% DV)
- Magnesium (from algas calcareas & magnesium dioxide) 175 mg (44% DV)
Note. percent DV = percent daily value.
Other ingredients are as follows:
- Vegetable cellulose (vegetarian capsule)
- silicon dioxide
- magnesium stearate (vegetable grades)
These other ingredients don't play any role in the benefits of the supplement.
How Many Capsules Per Day?
- The company suggests 4 capsules per day (2 caps twice a day with meals) if you're looking for increased bone strength.
- They suggest 3 capsules a day (1 with each meal) if you are looking to maintain your bone density.
Algal Cal Basic vs. AlgaeCal Plus
There are two versions of this supplement: Basic and Plus. Here's how they differ from each other:
|Basic (3 capsules)||Plus (4 capsules)|
|Calcium 750 mg (from AlgeCal) (75% DV)||Vitamin C 50 mg (84% DV)|
|Magnesium 65 mg (from AlgaeCal) (20%DV)||Vitamin D3 1600 IU (4000% DV)|
|Vitamin D3 1000 IU (from cholecalciferol) (250% DV)||Vitamin K2 100 mcg (126% DV)|
|Calcium 720 mg (from AlgaeCal (72% DV)|
|Magnesium 350 mg (from AlgaeCal and magnesium oxide) (88% DV)|
|Boron 3.0 mg (as glycinate)|
As can be seen, the Plus version contains higher levels of algae calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D3 than the Basic form. AlgaeCal Plus also contains vitamin C, vitamin K2, and boron. Neither the Basic or Plus forms contain any added strontium.
The AlgaeCal clinical studies can be found on the company website. The studies appear in clinical journals so they have gone through the peer-review process. That’s good. On the company site, they are listed as:
- Bone Study 1
- Bone Study 2
- Bone study 3
- Osteo Study
- Safety Study
All studies appear to be sponsored by the company and many were performed by the same laboratory. Below is a summary of each investigation.
Bone Study 1
This investigation, published in 2011 and lasted 6 months. All women were over 40 and split into two groups:
- Group 1 (125 people) AlgaeCal 2400 mg + 800 mg vitamin D
- Group 2 (51 people) AlgaeCal 2520 mg + 1600 mg vitamin D
There were a few other differences between groups also such as these:
After 6 months both groups increased bone density but those in group 2 (containing 1600 mg vitamin D) increased more. Here's how they differed:
- Group 1: 0.48% improvement in bone density
- Group 2: 2.18% improvement in bone density
- This was not a randomized placebo control study (the best kind)
- There was no control group
- AlgaeCal was not compared to calcium carbonate or other forms of the mineral
Bone Study 2
This investigation was published in 2011 and involved 172 women over age 40 who were split into 3 groups:
- Group 1: (36 people) 720 mg calcium + 680 mg strontium
- Group 2 (102 people): 756 mg calcium + 680 mg strontium + exercise
- Group 3 (34 people): 750 mg calcium + no strontium + exercise
All groups also received various minerals such as vitamin D, vitamin K, boron, vitamin C, and about 1600mg of trace minerals found in the AlgaeCal supplement. See the study for the complete breakdown.
After 1-year, only group 1 and group 3 showed significant improvements in bone density. The increase was about 1% for group one and 2.5% for group three (group three did not use strontium). This is interesting given strontium is supposed to boost bone growth. In this study, the group not using strontium seemed to have better bone development.
- This was not a randomized placebo-controlled study
- It's odd group 2 did not significantly increase bone density even though this group also exercised (they walked)
- Investigators did not compare AlgaeCal to calcium carbonate or other forms of calcium
- Group one (no strontium) also significantly improves bone density (so is strontium necessary?)
- It did not appear any of the women had osteopenia or osteoporosis at the start of the study
Bone Study 3
This investigation was published in 2016 and lasted for up to 7 years. 172 Women who took AlgaeCal (and Strontium Boost) were followed from 2007 to 2014. They had a DEXA scan before the study and 7 years later. At the start of the study, about 30% of the women (55) had osteopenia while 3 of the women had osteoporosis. It's not clear if women also took the strontium supplement.
Compared to those not taking the supplement, AlgeaCal was associated with about a 1% increase in bode density per year. This came to about a 7% increased in bone density after the 7-year study.
- The study compared supplement takers to a group of 2540 women of similar age in the general population. From the way the study was designed, we don’t know if the women who were not taking the supplement were taking calcium, vitamin D, osteoporosis medications or exercising. Still, it does appear to show the supplement is capable of improving bone density.
- It's not mentioned if the women also used the strontium supplement
The Osteo Study
This test tube study has merit because the researchers wanted to test if the AlgaeCal supplement helped the growth of bone cells called osteoblasts. Osteoblasts are critical for the development of new bone. They also compared AlgaeCal to calcium carbonate and calcium citrate.
The algae calcium supplement + vitamin D increased DNA synthesis in osteoblast more than calcium carbonate + vitamin D. This means these bone growth cells appeared more active. Also, AlgaeCal appeared to protect osteoblasts from free radicals better calcium carbonate or calcium citrate.
- Fetal osteoblast cells were used. Would results have been different if adult osteoblast cells were used?
The safety of AlgaeCal study was published in 2010. Basically the supplement was tested on rats. Even at very high doses, no significant side effects were observed. While this was a lab rat study, the 7-year study summarized above likewise did not notice any side effects.
The company is AlgaeCal Inc. Their mailing address is 401-1250 Homer St. Vancouver, BC V6B 1C6, Canada. The website is algaecal.com. While the company is not a BBB accredited business, it does have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. See the BBB report for updates and more information.
The Youtube Channel for the supplement contains several short videos from women who say the supplement has worked for them. Here's a couple of videos:
Notice the in the videos, women provide their full names. They are real people. I performed online searches for several of the names and they did show up.
When this review was updated, there were over 300 comments on Amazon giving the supplement a 3 out of 4-star rating. Not everyone said it worked, but many did.
How Much Does It Cost
These were prices listed on the company website when this review was last updated:
- 1 bottle (1 month supply): $69
- 3 bottles (3 month supply) : 177 ($59/bottle)
- 6 bottles (6 month supply): $294 ($49/bottle)
Shipping is free everywhere.
Customer service: 800-520 0184. The customer service was polite and answered my questions. When I called and I was not pressured to purchase the product. I appreciated that.
To Return The Product
Here is how to return AlgaeCal supplements:
The supplements come with a 1-year money-back guarantee. From a review posted on the BBB website, it appears you can only return what you did not use and not the empty container. When in doubt, call the company to make sure. Before returning the supplement, call customer service at the following numbers:
- US Returns: 800-820-0184
- International Returns: 1-510-564-7192
- Email support: Support at Algaecal.com
Before you can return the supplement, you’ll need a Return Merchandise Number (RMN) which you will obtain from customer support. Important: returns without an RMN number will not be accepted. It can take up to 5 business days to receive a refund.
AlgaeCal Vs Aquamin
Aquamin is another bone-building supplement. It's derived from red algae seaweed and contains calcium and 72 trace minerals. It's harvested exclusively from Iceland by a single company.
Unlike AlgaeCal, which is its own supplement brand, the company that harvests Aquamin, licenses it to other companies so it can be found in my different supplement brands. So far, no studies directly compare AlgaeCal to Aquamin. Aquamin does cost less.
1 Is it organic?
Yes, the supplement is certified USDA organic.
2 Is it GMO?
The supplement is non-GMO.
3 Is it Gluten-free?
Yes. It is also gluten-free, soy-free, and dairy-free.
4 How is AlgaeCal made?
Live algae are harvested from south American coastline and milled (ground up). The algae are cold-pressed to preserve their phytonutrients. The supplement contains 28%-31% algae calcium, 73 trace minerals with 2%-4% magnesium.
5 Does AlgaeCal naturally contain strontium?
Yes. Every 2400 mg of the supplement contains about 6 mg of strontium. This is far less than the Strontium Boost Supplement which has 680 mg. A person eating a normal diet typically gets about 1.5 mg of strontium daily from food.
6 Does it work better with Strontium Boost?
Some studies say yes and others say maybe not. Strontium can help bone strength (see below). More research is needed.
7. Is it hard to swallow?
I didn't try the supplement but in some of the testimonials, it was said swallowing the capsules was not difficult.
8. Does AlgaeCal Plus contain lead?
In 2011 an independent Lab noted in their testing that 4 capsules of the supplement contained 5.2 micrograms of lead than other calcium supplements they tested. When they tested the supplement again in 2017, they found less. The company states its supplement now contains far less lead (0.556 micrograms).
While lead is toxic and it's also true it's naturally present in the environment in low amounts. Previous studies have noted lead in other calcium supplements too.
9. How does vitamin K2 help?
Vitamin K2 is a form of vitamin K, one of the fat-soluble vitamins. The vitamin comes in two main types:
- Vitamin K1 (also called phylloquinone)
- Vitamin K2 is a family of compounds collectively called menaquinones. They are usually designed Mk1 up to Mk-10.
The vitamin K2 forms often studied to reduce bone loss are called MK-2 and Mk-7. AlgaeCal contains the Mk-7 form of the vitamin.
Vitamin K1 is found in green leafy vegetables like spinach while vitamin K2 can be made by our microbiome. We also obtain vitamin K2 in foods such as cheese, poultry, and meat. Most diets get more K1 than K2. Thus, its possible some may be lacking in vitamin K2.
10. What is strontium?
Strontium is a trace mineral. It's similar to calcium which is one reason most of it is found in the bones. Ironically, calcium reduces strontium absorption so they should not be taken at the same time. Various studies have noted strontium can reduce fractures in women who have osteoporosis.
The mineral appears to work by increasing bone formation and reducing its breakdown. Much of the evidence stems from studies involving a prescription medication called strontium ranelate (also known as the drug, Protelos).
It's estimated that most people ingest between 0.5 to 1.5 mg of strontium per day through the diet. Seafood is a good source of strontium. The mineral is also found in poultry, milk, and meats.
The Strontium Boost supplement contains 680 mg per two capsules (as strontium citrate). This is is similar to the amount used in strontium ranelate drugs. Some research hints that strontium may be a double-edged sword, however.
Some investigations have noted an increased risk of heart attacks with strontium use. But that's with the strontium ranelate drug. The supplement contains strontium citrate. This is naturally occurring strontium combined with citric acid (derived from lemons). So is strontium citrate safe? Speak to your doctor and pharmacist.
Here's a video the Algae Cal company has put out on Strontium:
Here is a longer and more detailed video on strontium worth looking at by medical anthropologist, Dr. Susan Brown. In the video, she's speaking about another osteoporosis supplement called Better Bones Builder.
AlgaeCal Side Effects
The supplement seems safe. Clinical studies on the algae calcium report no negative side effects. No bad change in cholesterol, liver enzymes, triglycerides, LDL or other heart risk factors have been noted when taking the supplement. One study which followed women who took the supplement for 7 years did not observe any negative side effects.
Reviews on amazon do appear to indicate some people experience side effects, although most don't. Effects reported when I checked amazon included:
- upset stomach
- elevated blood pressure and heart rate (only 1 report of this)
Most don't appear to have side effects. That said here's a shortlist of things to consider when using this supplement. This list is not complete:
- start with less than recommended for the first week to see how you respond
- taking with food may reduce stomach upset
- speak to your first if taking blood thinners such as heparin or coumadin (warfarin)
- speak to your doctor if you take any medications
- talk to your doctor if you are taking other calcium supplements
- while controversial, if you have heart disease, talk to your doctor if calcium supplements are right for you
- if your pregnant or nursing, talk to your doctor first
- not intended for children
Does AlgaeCal Really Work?
Several company-sponsored clinical studies appear to show AlgaeCal Plus can improve bone density. While I would like to see better investigations, the fact the company would take the time to research their supplement says a lot. The severity of osteoporosis may impact how effective the supplement would be. It's not known how well algae calcium stacks up against other calcium supplements. Exercise likely boosts the effectiveness of any bone-building supplement. If you're going to try this supplement, first talk to your doctor about getting a DEXA scan. This will help you tell if the supplement is working.