Update 6/4/22. Aquamin is a broad spectrum, multi-mineral plant-sourced dietary supplement. The minerals are derived from red seaweed (Lithothamnion calcareum). The supplement provides a good source of calcium, magnesium, and 72 other trace minerals and is touted to help build bone and reduce arthritis pain. So does Aqumin work? Does it build bone or reduce arthritis pain? What about side effects? This review will focus on the research. If you know the clinical research, you'll have a better idea if this plant-sourced, red mineral algae supplement is right for you.
What Is Aquamin?
Aquamin -not to be confused with AquaMan – is an aquatic multi-mineral supplement. The name literally means aquatic minerals. It's a calcium/magnesium supplement derived from red seaweed (algae) that are harvested a few times a year from Iceland. Magnesium hydroxide is the form of magnesium used in the supplement.
Aquamin calcium is made up of calcium carbonate. Both calcium and magnesium make up most of the aquatic minerals. While not stated on Nutrition Facts labels, Aquamin is also a source of 72 trace minerals such as but not limited to:
Aluminum Arsenic Barium Boron
Calcium Cadmium Cesium Chloride
Chromium Cobalt Copper Floride
Germanium Gold Iodine Iridium
Lead Lithium Lutetium Magnesium
Don't be alarmed by the presence of minerals like arsenic and lead as these are naturally occurring in red algae. Their levels are very low and are measured in parts per million (ppm). The amounts of trace minerals may fluctuate according to the season of harvest and the mineral content of the water the algae live in.
Who Makes Aquamin
The company is Margot Ltd. The Margot company is located in Cork Ireland and has been in business since 1993. The red algae are harvested from Bildudalur, Iceland. While the supplement is not patented, Margot is the ONLY company permitted to harvest red algae from Iceland. This means all supplements containing Aquamin get it from Margot.
Check out this video for more insights
In the US, Margot partners with another company called Stauber Performance Nutrition (StauberUsa.com), located in California. Stauber is a US-based dietary supplement ingredients company that's been in business since 1969. Stauber provides ingredients to many dietary supplement companies. Aquamin is one of the ingredients they offer.
Where Does Aquamin Come From
Lithothamnion calcareum is the red algae the supplement is derived from. Seaweed is a type of algae. This is why these words used interchangeably when describing the supplement. The algae are harvested from the Icelandic coast in the village of Bildudalur. The calcium in Aquamin is said to be 3 to 4 times more bioavailable than other forms of calcium.
Where Can You Buy Aquamin?
Many supplements contain the red seaweed multi mineral compound such as these:
- Natures Answer Marine Based Calcium Magnesium
- NOW Red Algae Calcium capsules
- NATURELO Bone Strength – Plant-Based Calcium
- PlantFusion Calcium Vegan Vitamin
Some of these supplements may be available at local stores like CVS, Vitamin Shoppe, GNC, Walgreens, Walmart, Krogers, and Costco to name a few. To know for sure, check the Supplement Facts label to see if “Aquamin” is mentioned.
Is it Bio-Available?
In another investigation, researchers observed the calcium carbonate in Aquamin was better absorbed than calcium carbonate alone when it was given to premenopausal. This same study also noted parathyroid hormone levels (PTH) were lower up to 4 hours after the supplement was taken. This was more than when a calcium carbonate supplement was taken. Parathyroid hormone is a necessary hormone but too much can weaken bones and contribute to osteoporosis.
So what are the benefits of red mineral algae calcium? To date, there are about 30 studies on Aquamin. Most of the research though is on mice and isolated cells. To make this review easier, let's divide the research into different parts. Let's also focus mostly on human research.
Osteoporosis/ Bone Research
In rats, the supplement has been shown to maintain bone strength. In isolated cells, Aquamin improved bone mineralization in bone cells called osteoblasts. Isolated cell studies have also shown the supplement improves bone formation.
All very good. But, what about people?
Parathyroid hormone (PTH) helps us absorb calcium from food and when needed, it also pulls calcium from our bones. In theory, lowering PTH levels that were too high may help preserve bone density. In one small study (12 premenopausal women) Aquamin was shown to be superior at suppressing PTH levels than calcium carbonate. This study also noted the calcium in Aquamin was absorbed better than calcium carbonate alone.
In theory, better absorption and lower PTH levels might mean Aquamin helps osteoporosis. But it will take better research to know for sure.
In one 2 year-long study, 300 postmenopausal women were randomly given:
- Aquamin (800 mg)
- Aquamin + a probiotic fiber called NutraFlora
- Placebo (sugar)
While overall bone density did not change, the combination of Aquamin plus the NutraFlora fiber appeared to slow bone loss more than either the placebo or the Aquamin supplement alone.
In young men, vigorous exercise can raise parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels. Calcium reduces PTH during exercise. But what about older women? In one investigation researchers, recruited 33 older women and had them walk quickly for 1 hour. The women were given 4-6 oz of Aquamin calcium or a placebo.
Which lowered PTH levels the most?
The Aquamin supplement seemed to slow the rise in parathyroid hormone compared to the placebo (that's good). But, in my opinion, this study is not realistic because the women consumed the calcium beverage every 15 minutes during exercise. That's not what people will be doing in the real world. Also, two different amounts of calcium were used. This could have altered the results.
Aquamin Arthritis Research
To see if the supplement helps osteoarthritis symptoms, researchers gave 29 people either 2400 mg of Aquamin or a placebo for 12 weeks. Results showed improvements in joint range of motion and walking distance. They also appeared to need fewer pain medications like aspirin and ibuprofen. While encouraging, the study has some issues:
- several people dropped out. The study started with 29 people but only 14 completed it.
- people were asked to cut back on pain drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen but they were still permitted to use Tylenol (acetaminophen) for pain if needed. Could Tylenol use have impacted the results?
Researchers gave either Aquamin or a supplement (called AquaPT) to 24 women with osteoarthritis for 6 weeks each. The AquaPT supplement contained Aquamin plus pine bark, and green tea. Both supplements reduced inflammation although the AquaPT showed more of an effect. Most people taking either supplement reported less pain and stiffness too.
What about Aquamin plus glucosamine sulfate? Do they work better together? In this investigation, researchers took 50 people with osteoarthritis and split them into the following 3 groups
- Aquamin alone ( 2400 mg/day)
- Glucosamine sulfate alone (1500 mg)
- Aquamin (2400 mg/day) plus glucosamine sulfate (1500 mg/day)
While pain, stiffness and walking distance was improved in both the Aquamin and glucosamine groups, those taking the combination of both did not improve. The reasons for this finding are not known.
Aquamin Cancer Research
Can the supplement help cancer? One study in mice appeared to show Aquamin inhibited liver tumor formation. Another mouse study noted the seaweed calcium supplement inhibited colon polyp formation in mice fed a high-fat diet. Preliminary research also suggests the supplement may reduce the spread of colon cancer.
These findings are very preliminary. I'm not known is if Aquamin improves colon cancer in humans or prolonged the lives of those with cancer.
Based on human research that could be located it appears Aquamin might:
- slow bone loss
- reduce parathyroid hormone levels
- reduce arthritis pain and stiffness
More research is needed to determine if it reduces osteoporosis.
Any Antioxidant Effects?
Some of the aquatic trace minerals in red seaweed may have antioxidant properties. This might explain some of its benefits although more research is needed. At least one cell study has noted the seaweed calcium supplement does not interfere with the antioxidant effects of Enzogenol (a pine bark extract) and Sunphenon (a green tea extract). That means it seems to play nice with other antioxidants. That's good.
Aquamin vs. Algae Cal
Algae Cal is a popular bone-building supplement that is also derived from red algae. AlgaeCal is derived from Lithothamnion superpositum. Aquamin comes from a similar species of red algae called Lithothamnion calcareum.
Both Algae Cal and Aquamin have their share of clinical studies.
So which is better? It would take human clinical studies to know for sure. Unfortunately, that research has not yet been conducted.
Aquamin vs. Glucosamine Sulfate
Glucosamine sulfate a popular arthritis supplement. It may also be used for helping sagging skin as well. Glucosamine sulfate has the lion share of arthritis research. Over the years, several studies have found glucosamine sulfate seems to help osteoarthritis pain. There is no glucosamine in Aquamin.
So, do they work better together?
In one study researchers tried to see if the combination worked better together. Unfortunately, this study failed to show the benefit of adding glucosamine sulfate (1500 mg/ day) to Aquamin. The reason why the combination did not work better is not known.
Some supplements may contain glucosamine HCL, a form that I feel is less effective. Arthritis supplements may also contain chondroitin sulfate which I feel should not be used by men until it's proven safe.
How Does It Compare To Calcium Citrate?
Calcium citrate is about 21% elemental calcium. Calcium carbonate is about 40% elemental calcium. It's the elemental calcium that helps build bones. What this means is you'd have to take more calcium citrate to get the same amount of elemental calcium found in calcium carbonate. The calcium in Aquamin is calcium carbonate. No studies comparing aquatic mineral supplements to calcium citrate could be located. On the plus side, calcium citrate can be taken on an empty stomach. It's best to take calcium carbonate supplements with food.
Aquamin vs. Omega XL
Omega XL is a widely popular omega 3 supplement. Omega XL comes from the green-lipped mussel that's harvested from New Zealand. Both supplements have been studied to see if they help arthritis. Both have some positive research too. But it's not known which is best. No studies have compared Omega XL vs Aquamin.
See the Omega XL Review
Aquamin Side Effects
Most studies show Aquamin safety is nothing people need to worry about. Most studies show no significant side effects from this botanically derived mineral supplement. Here are some things to consider. This list is not complete:
- start with less than recommended for the first week
- ask your doctor if allergic to seaweed
- if you take medications like blood thinners ask your doctor
- ask your doctor if you take any medications. Calcium can interact with medications like blood pressure meds and heart drugs.
- stop taking at least 2 weeks before surgery
- if pregnant/breastfeeding, ask your doctor first
- constipation is sometimes reported with calcium supplements
- if you have hypoparathyroidism (low PTH levels) ask your doctor before using
- consider the calcium you already get from foods. This may tell you if you need a calcium supplement
In one study, of older people with arthritis, side effects reported included:
- upper respiratory infections
- gastrointestinal events
- musculoskeletal issues
- increased osteoarthritis pain
But, there were more side effects in those taking a placebo. The placebo group also reported more arthritis pain. As such, the intensity of side effects in those taking the supplement might be minimal.
1 Does it come from algae or seaweed?
Technically, algae is a type of seaweed. Supplements containing Aquamin are may be labeled as red algae. You may have heard the supplement referred to as seaweed calcium. While confusing, both terms pretty much mean the same thing.
2 What is Aquamin TG?
This is one of the forms used in dietary supplements. Aquamin TG has at least 30% calcium.
3 What is Aquamin MG?
The MG in the name refers to magnesium. This form of the red algae supplement has more magnesium than Aquamin TG.
4 Do you have to take it with food?
The company says the supplement can be taken on an empty stomach if you prefer.
5 Is it a capsule or powder?
6 Is it safe?
In the US, Aquamin is generally recognized as safe (GRAS). This is an FDA term. Foods, food additives, and supplements that are GRAS are those which have been consumed by many people for a long time and /or have been reviewed by qualified experts as being safe to consume.
7 Is it vegan?
The supplement comes from red algae seaweed so yes, it's vegan. All the minerals in the supplement come from seaweed.
8 Is it Kosher?
The supplement is both kosher and halal certified. Aquamin is also Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS).
9 Does it have iodine?
Yes. It has about 143 micrograms of iodine per gram. That's not much. Whether Aquamin helps the thyroid function better or helps those with hypothyroidism needs more study.
10 How long do supplements last?
Supplements have a shelf life of 3 years from the date of manufacture.
11 Is it organic?
Yes. It's both organic and non-GMO.
12 Is it environmentally friendly and sustainable?
Yes. The Margot company goes to great lengths to make sure harvesting does not deplete the environment.
13 Does it work better with vitamin D?
14 Is it the same as carrageenan?
Carrageenan is a food-thickening agent that comes from red algae. Carrageenan comes from a different species of red algae than Aquamin so they are not the same thing. Carrageenan is derived from Chondrus crispus (Irish Moss) while Aquamin comes from another type of red algae seaweed called Lithothamnion calcareum. There is no carrageenan in Aquamin.
15. Can you give it to dogs?
Some dog supplements may contain Aquamin. Does it work? It's possible but research is lacking. I suggest talking to your veterinarian.
16. What's the active ingredient?
It's important to remember Aquamin has over 72 trace minerals. Calcium and magnesium make up most of those and get a lot of attention. But the contribution of the other minerals cannot be overlooked. Some of those trace minerals may have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. If Aquamin really works, I don't think you can boil it down to just one mineral.
Is Aquamin Best For Bones?
Aquamin, derived from red algae, will appeal to many who are looking for a plant-based natural multi-mineral supplement. While the supplement has clinical research, I wish there were a few more human studies. The studies showing less arthritis pain and stiffness are interesting. How well it works may depend on how bad your arthritis is. If you're taking it for osteoporosis remember, it may take at least a year before improvements in bone density are observed.