The purpose of Chelation therapy is to remove toxic metals and excess calcium from the body, as well as improve circulation. Chelation therapy is a course of intravenous (IV) EDTA (magnesium disodium Ethylene Diamine Tetracetic Acid) treatments combined with vitamins, minerals, a change in diet, and regular exercise. It is medically approved use is for acute or chronic lead poisoning. However, since its beginnings in clinical use, it has been reported to have benefit in treating everything from arthritis to cancer. EDTA is a synthetic amino acid. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. EDTA is a common food preservative, helps preserve blood specimens for lab testing, and is even used in solution to keep donor hearts alive while awaiting transplant.
The word Chelation is derived from the Greek word “chele,” which means to grab onto like a claw. Chelation is a natural process. It is involved in many vital metabolic life functions from chlorophyll in plants to iron on hemoglobin in human blood. Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and garlic are other common natural chelators. EDTA grabs onto metals in the circulatory system and does not let go. The EDTA and the toxic metals are then removed from the body through the urine.Dr. Lipton explains the process and benefits of chelation therapy.
Who Can Benefit From Chelation Therapy?
Anyone could benefit from chelation therapy. In today’s industrialized world we are inundated with toxins through what we breathe, eat, and drink. Every year, 6000 new chemicals are being produced that are entering our environment and could affect our health: air pollution from industry and automobiles enters our bodies through our lungs, water pollutants like lead and iron enters through our stomachs, food pollutants like insecticides and hormones enter through our gastrointestinal systems. All of these pollutants are toxic and can damage our cells.
All Disease Originates at the Cellular Level
All human life starts from two cells, which divide and grow and divide and grow, first forming an embryo, then a fetus, and eventually forming an adult human. Every process that goes on in the body is controlled at the cellular level, and the function of every cell in the body is regulated by its cell membrane. Every disease starts with damage to a cell membrane which then leads to altered or decreased cell function. Chronic diseases such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer, do not start in one day or all of a sudden. Disease occurs after years of cellular damage when the body’s ability to repair itself has been overrun.
Free radicals are reactive molecules with an unpaired electron. Nature likes to have pairs of electrons. A molecule with an unpaired electron will steal an electron from a stable molecule creating another unpaired electron and a chain reaction from molecule to molecule. When this happens in a human cell, the end result is cell membrane damage. Many metals promote the production of free radicals and therefore promote cell membrane damage. Compounds known as antioxidants are used by the body to prevent the damage done by free radicals. Chelation therapy removes the metals that promote free radical damage and also supports the body’s natural defense from free radicals by supplying high levels of antioxidants.
Chelation Therapy Improves the Following Conditions:
- Coronary heart vessels
- Peripheral blood flow (to hands and feet)
- Carotid arteries (supply blood to the brain)
- Pulmonary function
- Decreases cancer rates
- Decreases serum cholesterol
- Increases bone density
- Mitigates potential amputations
- Improves electrocardiograms (EKGs)
- Increases mental clarity
- Improves memory
- Reduces Alzheimer’s symptoms
- Decreases insulin requirements in diabetics
- Decreases blood pressure
- Decreases cardiac arrhythmias
- Decreases allergy symptoms
- Decreases intermittent claudication (cramping)
- Increases senses (taste, vision, and hearing)
- Increases vision in macular degeneration
- Reversal of impotency
- Overcomes symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome
- Reduced symptoms of: arthritis, porphyria, renolithiasis, and scleroderma
Quackery vs. Miracle: Why Does Chelation Therapy Work?
In medical school, one of the things we were told about quackery was that if one therapy promised to relieve a multitude of diseases, that it was probably too good to be true. As you can see from the previous list, chelation has been reported to help with a multitude of diseases. For this reason, opponents to chelation very often call it quackery. The reason that chelation can help so many disorders is that it improves circulation and removes toxins. Therefore, chelation can benefit any area in the body that has decreased circulation. Any area in the body that has an increased toxic load would also have a decrease in the ability to heal or repair. Removing that toxic load would, therefore, improve that area’s ability to heal and repair. Chelation itself does not cure these diseases but instead it removes the toxic assault to an area and improves the circulation and thereby increasing the healing ability of the body. Chelation therapy is neither quackery nor miracle. It is based on sound scientific and chemical principles. Physicians that perform chelation therapy realize that any therapy to improve health pales in comparison to the body’s own ability to heal and repair itself. Surgeons tend to be somewhat egotistical about their abilities, but the finest surgeon in the world could not be successful unless the body heals and repairs itself after surgery. Every second that we are alive, our bodies are performing tens of thousands of functions without our awareness. While modern medicine tries to uncover as many as these processes as possible, we ultimately must have faith that the body can and will heal and repair itself if given the opportunity to do so.
Hardening of the arteries or arteriosclerosis is a common explanation for why older people have poor circulation. Another form of hardening of the arteries, atherosclerosis, is caused by high levels of cholesterol causing a hard plaque to form. Following years of exposure to heavy metals, the body forms this calcified plaque in the arteries. When we are young, our arteries are soft and flexible. Arteriosclerosis causes the walls of the arteries to become like brick walls. In an analogy, chelation therapy removes bricks from the wall, making the walls able to move and become more compliant. This in effect can improve circulation and lower blood pressure. Chelation therapy also lowers cholesterol, thereby reducing atherosclerosis.
History & Important Statistics
EDTA was first synthesized in the late 1930s in Germany. Clinical use in lead poisoning was first reported in 1952, when Michigan battery factory workers were discovered to be suffering from lead poisoning. They were treated with EDTA and coincidentally those patients who had coronary artery disease and angina had lessening of symptoms following treatment. This prompted the first studies to discover other therapeutic effects of EDTA. The first study of EDTA in occlusive vascular disease (clogged arteries) was stopped due to lack of immediate results. However, it was resumed after patients reported subsequent improvements in symptoms. It was found that maximum benefits occurred approximately three months following a course of treatment.
More than 500,000 people have been treated with chelation therapy in the United States alone, without a single reported incident of renal failure or death since 1960. Deaths prior to 1960 are attributed to lack of screening techniques (ie, blood tests and EKGs) and too high a dose of EDTA given too quickly. Whereas the surgical alternative, coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) has shown a 1-year mortality rate in excess of 11%, depending on who performs the surgery and where it is performed.
In a typical year in the United States, $872 billion is spent on approximately 250,000 coronary artery bypasses at $25,000 to $40,000 per operation. There are still questions as to if coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) prolongs life and how effective it is for symptom relief. Contrary to popular belief a heart attack is not from narrowed arteries but from a combination of a clot or plaque breaking off and completely blocking a coronary artery. CABG, therefore, does not necessarily lower the risk of having a heart attack. Angina or chest pain, however is related to narrowed arteries, which cannot supply enough blood to the heart. CABG is treating just the tip of the iceberg, if coronary arteries are blocked or narrowed, chances are so are other vessels in the body.
Following the development of the heart lung machine in the late 1960s, coronary artery bypass surgery became quite popular. This was partially due to the media presentation of this miraculous event. This surgery took off without the proper evaluation of its risks and outcome, and presently even the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute agrees that CABG and angioplasty are widely overused. The typical scenario is for a patient to present with chest pain and then have a treadmill stress test which can show if the heart is getting enough blood.If the stress test is positive the next step the cardiologist recommends is an angiogram (cardiac catheterization). The only reason for an angiogram is a road map for bypass surgery. The cardiologist may then tell you which vessels are blocked and what percent blockage they have, and that you need to have them bypassed. By the time all of this has been done, your insurance company has spent more than $100,000, you’ve been poked, probed, catheterized, and cut open. If you survive all of this but don’t change your life style your looking at a repeat of this in 8 to 10 years.
Chelation therapy, on the other hand, is non-invasive. An IV is placed in your arm and infused over two to four hours while sitting in a reclining chair. A course of therapy involves anywhere from 20 to 50 treatments, depending on the medical condition of the patient. Treatment costs $100 per infusion. Many patients have not needed bypass surgery following a course of Chelation therapy.
While insurance companies will cover more than $100,000 for bypass surgery, most will not cover Chelation therapy. They deny its coverage stating that it is not a proven therapy. There are many “unproven” therapies that have been used for hundreds or even thousands of years that continue to be effective, yet remain unproven. Vitamin therapy and a low fat diet are two examples of therapies that were not accepted by modern medicine until recently. Many of these therapies have been lumped under the name “Alternative Medicine”. Alternative medicine is defined as any therapy that is not taught in US medical schools or practiced in US hospitals. While Chelation therapy for improved health would be considered alternative, Chelation for the treatment of lead poisoning would not be.
A study done through Harvard University, interviewed 1539 patients via randomly generated phone numbers as to their use of alternative therapies. Extrapolated results suggest an estimated 425 million patients visits to unconventional therapies were made in 1990 with approximately $10.3 billion spent. This is comparable to $12.8 billion spent out of pocket annually for all hospitalizations in the United States. This study showed that the frequency of use for alternative medicines is much higher than previously recognized. Recent estimates report that more than 500,000 Americans have been chelated, with the number rapidly growing.
EDTA is a generic medicine without patent protection, so the ability to recover research cost is nil. EDTA is indicated for the treatment of lead or heavy metal poisoning. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the government agency that regulates the use of prescription medicines. The FDA will only approve medicines for use with a specific indication after extensive testing, which can cost the pharmaceutical company quite a bit of money. Millions of dollars would be required to produce a study stringent enough to fulfill FDA requirements to add arterial occlusive disease (blocked arteries) to the indications. Since 1959 Abbott Labs marketed EDTA and had arterial occlusive disease as listed indication, until the FDA asked for substantiation of this claim. Abbott then removed the indication from the insert rather than investing millions that they were unlikely to recover. Abbott no longer lists vascular occlusive disease under indications and now there is an additional statement “it is not recommended for the treatment of generalized atherosclerosis associated with advancing age.” This is a probable attempt at legal protection against potential product liability and puts increased responsibility on the physician to be knowledgeable about this drug. However, the FDA, Federal, and State courts have repeatedly ruled that a physician is free to use any FDA approved drug for any other use that is in the physicians judgment, in the best interest of the patient.
Who Is Permitted To Administer EDTA?
Any licensed physician can administer EDTA. The American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM) is one of the organizations that promotes Chelation. ACAM members include doctors from almost every prestigious medical school in the U.S. These doctors include cardiovascular surgeons and specialists certified in many areas of medicine, many of whom have honors and are well respected by their peers. The world scientific literature contains more than 1000 articles attesting to the many effects of EDTA or a brand name equivalent, and there are dozens of brands of the same medicine used throughout the world. Soviet literature has reported beneficial effects with EDTA on cerebral, coronary and peripheral circulation.
What Will My Doctor Say?
Many physicians are not familiar with the use of Chelation therapy to improve circulation and remove toxic metals, and therefore do not recommend its use to their patients. If your doctor is interested or if you would like your doctor to know more about Chelation therapy have them contact a Dr. Andrew Lipton, or any other chelating physician, for a first-hand explanation.
“Why You Should Not Try Chelation Therapy”
Most physicians are not even aware of the use of EDTA for treatment of chronic arterial occlusive disease. The American Heart Association, when asked about Chelation therapy, denies its efficacy. The AHA produces a pamphlet “Questions and Answers on Chelation” where it states many reasons why not to try Chelation, which include:
- The benefits are not scientifically proven. Scientific studies proving the effectiveness of EDTA have been performed hundreds of times. However, not to the satisfaction of many, due to insufficient patient numbers and lack of double blind studies. Opponents state that symptomatic improvement in thousands of patients is not good enough proof of effectiveness.
- Insurance companies and Medicare do not reimburse for Chelation. Some suggest that because organizations like insurance companies and Medicare do not pay for Chelation, that this implies that Chelation doesn’t work. Many insurance policies are limited in what they cover. Just because it is not covered by insurance does not mean that it has no benefit.
- Patient improvement may be due to placebo affect or life style changes. Patient improvement may be partially due to placebo or life style changes associated with Chelation, but for most doctors that perform Chelation, the goal is symptomatic improvement, not proving effectiveness. Chelation therapy is very often the catalyst for people to change to a healthier way of living.
- The danger of kidney failure and death related to EDTA Chelation. While there have been incidents of renal failure associated with excess doses of EDTA, when used at therapeutic doses it has been reported to improve renal function, particularly when due to vascular impairment. Actually, when used correctly EDTA is safer than aspirin.
- People might delay undergoing proven therapies. There is a possibility that patients may delay undergoing other medical therapy by doing Chelation, but many people who undergo Chelation have already attempted accepted medical therapy without success, or refuse to have recommended therapy. Also, Chelation therapy is only administered by licensed physicians, who are obligated to treat in the patient’s best interest.
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Chelation Therapy Resources
Brecher H, Brecher A. Forty Something Forever. A Consumer’s Guide to Chelation Therapy and Other Heart Savers. Herndon, VA: Health Savers Press; 1992.
Cranton EC. Bypassing Bypass. The New Technique of Chelation Therapy. Trout Dale, VA: Medex Publishers, Inc.; 1992.
Walker M. The Chelation Way. Garden City Park, NY: Avery Publishing Group, Inc.; 1990.
Walker M. The Chelation Answer. Dunwoody, GA: Second Opinion Publishing, Inc.; 1993.