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You Ask, I Answer: Calcium Carbonate in Vegan Beverages

Tums UltraI’ve noticed that most soy/almond milk has calcium carbonate, which someone once told me was like drinking concrete?

Is that true?  What is calcium carbonate, exactly?

– Kerra Olsen
(Via Facebook)

Calcium carbonate– an ionic salt –  is a very abundant compound; it’s found almost everywhere in nature, from snail shells to our planet’s crust.  It’s also the main component in Tums!

Yes, concrete (and chalk) are made from calcium carbonate, but that is not to say you are “eating concrete”.  After all, you can make paper mache paste from flour and water.  That does not mean, however, that a whole grain baguette is just a baked version of of it.

Most calcium supplements (and calcium-fortified foods, such as non-dairy “milks”) are made from calcium carbonate because it is the least expensive source.  Research also shows that its absorption is the highest.

Since calcium carbonate is best absorbed with meals, it only makes sense to use it to fortify foods.

No reason to panic or fear.  Calcium carbonate is a perfectly safe way to get your calcium, provided you don’t have certain conditions (kidney stones being the biggest worry).

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3 Comments

  1. McNee said on September 22nd, 2010

    Add “gastric bypass patients” to the list of “certain conditions”. Since carbonate is absorbed in the stomach, and the the stomach is bypassed, bypass patients need to take calcium citrate, not carbonate.

  2. Josh Griffin said on September 23rd, 2010

    Andy,

    A few follow-up questions:

    1. Is there research that indicates that calcium carbonate’s absorption is superior to that of calcium citrate?

    2. My doctor recently suggested that I supplement my diet with calcium and vitamin D. Is there a heightened risk of developing kidney stones associated with calcium supplementation?

    3. Most of the vitamin D supplements I’ve found contain gelatin as an ingredient. Does it make sense for someone who doesn’t eat red meat or pork to avoid those types of supplements? You’re a proponent of vitamin D supplementation and a vegan who occasionally eats sushi, correct? Do you use vitamin D supplements that contain gelatin or do you use an alternative product? If it’s the latter, could you provide a product recommendation?

    Thanks, Andy.

  3. Andy Bellatti said on September 24th, 2010

    Thanks, Rob! Yes, I write all my posts for the general public, so I really appreciate you pointing things out that apply to gastric bypass patients. Otherwise, if I were to point out exceptions to general nutrition rules, these posts would get long (ie: “for those with kidney disorders: keep THIS in mind… for those of you with thyroid issues, keep THAT in mind, etc.”)

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