Update 6/30/22. AlgaeCal is “the only calcium supplement that increases bone density or your money back.” Even celebrity Paul Abdul is singing its praises,. 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.
AlgaeCal Clinical Research For Strengthening Bones
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.
AlgaeCal Company: Who Makes This Supplement?
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. Ironically, in spite of this, the BBB gives the company a rating of 1 out of 5 stars. See the BBB report for updates and more information.
Paula Abdul And AlgeCal
Paula Abdul has said in her Youtube Short video that she's been using AlgaeCal for 15 years with her only regret being that she wishes she discovered it sooner. Paula does not share results from DEXA scans and it's not known if she is a paid spokesperson for the company.
AlgaeCal Real Customer Testimonials
The Youtube channel for the supplement company contains several short videos from women who say the supplement has improved their bone density. Here's some of the videos where women share their bone density results:
Notice that in the videos, women provide their full names. They are real people. I performed online searches for several of the names and the people did show up, indicating they are real people who have been active on the internet.
When this review was updated, there were over 2000 ratings on Amazon giving the supplement a 4.6 out of 5-star rating. While not everyone said it worked, but many have stated that it 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 AlgaeCal For a Refund If It's Not Working?
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 of this. 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.
Here's the Aquamin Red Algae Review
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 the 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? Does it help AlgaeCal work better?
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 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 in those who use the strontium ranelate drug. The AlgaeCal supplement contains strontium citrate. This is naturally occurring strontium where it is 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 short list 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 doctor 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 you are 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, consider first getting a DEXA scan. This will help you tell if the supplement is working.
Joe – I just went back to this review to watch the videos from Susan Brown and Lara Pizzorno. Dr. Brown provides more clinical evidence than Lara Pizzorno, who sings the praises of Strontium Citrate as natural, effective, and without side effects, but where are the human studies? I am alright taking it in the lower doses as mentioned by Dr. Brown.
Joe Cannon says
Judy, I agree Dr. Browns video was very good. About strontium, I think less is more. The idea of heart attacks with high dose strontium is obviously concerning. In nutrition, more is not always better.
Have you asked your doctor about the benefits and risks of strontium?
BTW, I noticed Algae Cal removed 2 videos I originally embedded in this review. Not sure why they removed the videos from Youtube? I removed them from the review.
The only doctor I had a conversation about Strontium was a rheumatologist several years ago. His response was that it builds fake bone, but he was also pushing me toward the Forteo injections, which I did not do. Also, I’ve read similar issues with some of the pharmaceuticals.
Right now, I think the benefits of Strontium outweigh the risk, regardless of whether it is strontium ranelate or strontium citrate, which we don’t know that much about. I saw a video somewhere about the citrate form being a different chemical structure than the ranelate form, so how can the benefits to bone density be generalized without
One of the issues with Forteo and some of the other similar drugs, similar to what Dr. Brown pointed out about SR, is that once they are discontinued, if they don’t take a bisphosphonate, all gains in bone density are lost and bone loss occurs.
Joe Cannon says
Judy, so I looked into this issue about “fake bone.” I think the doctor was referring to strontium inhibiting osteoclasts. These are bone-eating cells. they break down old bone to make way for new bone. By inhibiting osteoclasts, it may look like bone density is increased but the bone is made up of older bone which breaks more easily. Basically, the quality of the bone is decreased. I think this is the fake bone the doctor was referring to. Some osteoporosis drugs – like Reclast – work the same way – and have been criticized for the same reasons.
It’s an interesting topic. I have not seen any humam proof of increase in fractures from strontium. I may have missed it. I’d expects to see that if bones were mostly made up of older bone that was not broken down by osteoclasts. I did see some evidence strongium might stimulate osteoblasts. Osteoblasts are bone-forming cells.
Bone formation and breakdown is complicated. At the end of the day, I agree less strontium is probably best.
Are you getting email updates for website comments? (hoping yes!) 🙂
Judy and Joe, I looked up “ppb” (and you both probably knew this), it’s parts per billion. It would be micrograms.
It kind of does seem high, but I guess they are saying it’s naturally occurring. I’m now taking Jarrow’s “Bone Up”.
Joe Cannon says
Roseann and Judy, yes its hard to get around naturally occuring stuff. Its all about the dose. The dose makes the poison as they say.
According to the heavy metal analysis from Naturelo, their limits for lead and mercury tested as <1 ppm with the upper limit set by CA Prop 65 as .5 ppm for lead and no limits/.3 ppm USP for mercury.
To accurately compare to the NOW's Red Mineral Algae report of lead as 387 ppb and mercury as 400 ppb, a conversion calculator shows lead as .387 ppm and mercury as .4 ppm, which is a little higher than the Naturelo Bone Strength.
However, I don't to plan to reorder the Naturelo brand since I've read from two different sources that it's best to take Vitamin D separate from K2, one of which is ConsumerLab. The arsenic and cadmium levels reported in the Red Mineral Algae are still lower than the Prop 65 limits in ppm, but higher than Naturelo.
Considering I probably get more than enough naturally occurring arsenic in grains like rice, I might pass on this one.
Looking forward to what you discover when you review Aquamin.
Joe Cannon says
Judy, yes Aquamin is on my list. I do hope to get to it very soon 🙂
Thank you, Judy!
Interesting. I didn’t know about the second study. I personally wouldn’t take Strontium until there is more research into the supplement form available in the U.S. I have been taking Source Naturals Calcium Citrate/Malaete combination with separate magnesium, Vitamin K2, and D3 and recently added Boron. Then I found out abouot Naturelo Bone Strength with 55% of its calcium from Aquamin and 45% from citrate-malate, K2, D3 and other trace minerals, but I will definitely look into the NOW Red Algae.
It contains more calcium from Aquamin, but less magnesium and D2, but I would add extra magnesium, D3, and K2 of course. For now, I’ve been alternating with my CCM calcium, and separate supplements mentioned and the Naturelo. It’s always been a quandary which calcium supplement to take, which is why I’m alternating. I’ve only just started taking the Naturelo so it will be too soon to see any benefit. My DEXA is scheduled for next week.
Here’s the link to the Naturelo ingredients. https://www.naturelo.com/product/naturelo-bone-strength-calcium-magnesium/
Look forward to reading your Aquamin review.
Joe Cannon says
Judy, thanks for that link. I also noticed Natruelo is on Amazon too (maybe less expensive?). How long have you been taking it? It may take several months to see a difference with Dexa. Do you get any calcium from foods? I do think thats a good thing to look at if not (I know you probably are but just wanted to toss it in 🙂
Joe, I did have a Dexa scan late last year or early this year, so I will be able to compare.
I see the Rheumatologist to discuss osteoporosis treatments on Dec. 30th. My primary physician wanted her to discuss them with me, but he’s the one who mentioned Reclast when I told him I wouldn’t take the phosphatase pills. I’m sure she will tell me it’s a very low risk, but if it happens, it’s devastating.
And there are other side effects and adverse reactions that I don’t want. The natural approach is the one I’ll take. I DID order the NOW algae-based calcium supplement. I really appreciate your review.
Joe Cannon says
Roseann, I just got an email from another friend who echoed almost verbatim what you were saying previously about the osteo drug side effects. I totally understand how that would be devastating to anyone. when you see the doctor ask what the statistical odds are of those side effects happening are. Also ask if Reclast increase fractures by promoting the storage of old, worn out bone. Im not sure if it does. Ive heard some drugs worked that way. not sure if Reclast is one of those meds.
Joe, I did some reading about Reclast, and it IS one of those medications that uses old bone to show increased density on Dexa scans, when actually it isn’t new growth. So I went with the NOW Red Mineral Algae, which contains the Aquamin you mentioned, along with 70 trace minerals.
I’m taking it regularly, whereas before I’d forget to take my Calcium supplements often. I’m determined NOT to take the osteoporosis medications now available because of the potential side effects. I’ll ask my rheumatologist if she has statistics on necrosis of the jaw or the abnormal femur fractures. But if those happen to you or me, they are devastating, no matter what the statistics may be.
I believe your review has helped me select the proper course of treatment for my osteoporosis. I’ll keep you up to date on my progress.
Joe Cannon says
Roseann, thanks for the info on Reclast. I thought it might be one of those types of meds, but was not sure. Thanks for the confirmation. I agree regardless of the stats, if jaw necrosis occurs, its a pretty serious thing. I hope the Now supplement works and look forward to hearing about your progress.
Joe, I will definitely keep you informed about my progress. I had NO idea before about old bone being used to fool scans into thinking bone density had increased, when it really had not! I wrote a review on Amazon about NOW “Red Mineral Algae”, which contains the Aquamin you briefly mentioned in this review. I am not sure they will publish it, but if they do, I mentioned “SupplementClarity, com”.
I’ve decided to say NO to medications for osteoporosis and consistently take the NOW product, Vit D3, and a whole-food based multivitamin and mineral for treatment of my osteoporosis. Unfortunately, I can’t even walk at this time, having a not quite healed sprain in my right ankle and a pulled ligament in my left ankle.
Exercise with my calcium from algae would be most beneficial, but I cannot do it. So your review was invaluable in helping me make up my mind about the best course of treatment for ME for osteoporosis.
Joe Cannon says
Roseann, definitely take time to heal. Sprains and pulled ligaments can take time. Eventually, you will be able to get around better. For now, just rest up and have a great Christmas with your family. Thanks for mentioning me on Amazon 🙂
I contacted Now Foods Product Info about their Red Mineral Algae capsules regarding heavy metal testing and trace minerals, and this is their reply:
Arsenic NMT 2000 ppb
Cadmium NMT 820 ppb
Lead NMT 387 ppb
Mercury NMT 400 ppb
There are approximately 72 different naturally occurring minerals in the trace minerals however, we only measure for calcium and magnesium. We do not analyze the other naturally occurring trace minerals.
They don’t indicate what unit of measure they use. If it is mcg., then it seems high.
Joe Cannon says
Judy, so NOW foods does test for calcium and magnesium. My guess is their levels would be in milligrams not micrograms (mcg). Is that what your referring to?
Karen Amy says
Thank you, Joe, for your review. I have a family history of osteoporosis (my mother) who was not aware of her condition. Being proactive I had a dexa scan in my 40s and was diagnosed with osteopenia. Long story short, I have been on Evista and taking what I thought was a good plant based calcium supplement Vitamin Code Raw Calcium, in addition, to exercise from aerobics, to Curves where I first met you to Zumba, etc. etc.
Now at 64, my latest DEXA scan shows my spine went from -2.2 to -3.6 in 4 years!! Quite upsetting. My doctor recommended a calcium citrate instead. Going to an endocrinologist next month to get another opinion.
Although I failed to mention I have gerd and need to take nexium which prevents the absorption of calcium. I am stuck treating 2 conditions that are not compatible.
These reviews look positive! Thank you!
Joe Cannon says
Hey Karen, nice to hear from you! Yes curves, that was back in 2004! It seems like yesterday! Yes your DEXA is definitely in the osteoporosis realm. are you still exercising? Resistance training can strengthen bones. my guess is your doctor recommended calcium citrate because you can take it on an empty stomach. It doesn’t require a lot of stomach acid to be absorbed. So it nexium should not be a problem with it. Remember that dark green leafy veggies also contain calcium too.
Its always good to get a second opinion. Maybe the endocrinologist knows of something. I do think resistance training can help if you are able. Do keep me posted on how you are doing!
Joe, this is a remarkable review of AlgaeCal! Thank you. I have osteoporosis. I’m not able to ascertain how severe it is. My doctor recommended Reclast, which is an annual IV infusion of a phosphatase medication, but I am afraid of the severe side effects, which could include necrosis of the jaw after tooth extraction. I may need a tooth extraction, and I don’t want to hazard that risk!
But the expense of AlgaeCal on a retired person’s income is very high!! I wonder about Aquamin.
I hope other people with osteopenia and osteoporosis see your review.
Joe Cannon says
Roseann, thanks so much! Can you get your doctor to authorize a DEXA scan so you can see the severity of your osteoporosis? What does your doctor say about the jaw necrosis now that you may need to a tooth extracted? I will review Aquamin in the near future so stay tuned.