Many doctors will state that chelation therapy doesn’t work, that there is no proof of its value or that it is dangerous. Hopefully the following information and the reference materials provided will allow you to learn more about it, and empower you to make health decisions based upon facts, not rhetoric. Some doctors dismiss that with which they are not familiar, educated in or have personal experience with, regardless of evidence contradicting their opinions. Patients should ask their doctors as to their personal familiarity with chelation and whether or not they have personally read any studies on it in order to balance their opinions with others. Having such an open discussion may clarify the extent of your doctor’s knowledge about chelation and better allow you to make an informed decision that is right for you.
Chelation (pronounced ‘key-lay-shun’) is a Latin translation meaning to ‘bind onto’ or to ‘pinch’. It relates to the chemical process whereby one substance (in the case of chelation therapy this is a natural amino acid – not a drug) bonds onto another mineral – such as lead, mercury, arsenic, aluminum or calcium. This is a completely natural process, which transpires thousands of times a day in your body to allow for life itself.
Chelation therapy ‘exploits’ this natural chemical process in order to rid the body of harmful (and toxic) mineral levels and to weaken the mineral ‘shell’ that forms on the plaques inside your veins and arteries. It simply provides your body with amino acids known to bind onto specific metals and allows for the natural chemical process to occur.
The History of Chelation Therapy
•It was first used during the World War II, when the British army developed the chelating agent ‘British Anti-Lewesite’ (BAL) to counter poison gas that was being developed as a new form of weaponry.
•It was introduced in the United States in 1948 to treat industrial workers suffering from lead poisoning.
•U.S. Navy doctors endorsed chelation, noting that those who received chelation and who also had atherosclerosis experienced less angina, better memory, better sight and an overall increase in vitality.
•Since the 1940s, over 400 controlled studies have examined the use of chelation therapy.
•More than 20 million treatments have been conducted worldwide since the1940s with no fatalities – compare this with bypass surgery, stent implants etc.
•Chelation is the undisputed, only treatment (accepted and used by ALL doctors and hospitals) to treat lead poisoning.
•Chelation is only disputed (by conventional medical agencies) with regard to its use for cardiovascular disease – more so in North America (which has an estimated $ 5 billion dollar ‘industry’ in heart surgeries and pharmaceutical medications).
•Advocates now use chelation for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Autism and general health promotion.
•Since the publication of the book Bypassing Bypass (1990), written by Dr. Elmer M. Cranton, hundreds of thousands of patients have learned of and received chelation therapy to treat blocked coronary arteries, angina, impaired circulation, decreased exercise tolerance and a litany of circulatory or cardiovascular conditions (such as vascular dementia, peripheral vascular disease, impaired vision etc).
•Since the publication of the book Forty Something Forever: A Consumer’s Guide To ChelationTherapy and Other Heart Savers (1992), written by Harold and Arline Brecher, North Americans have becoming increasingly aware of the ability of chelation therapy to reverse the ‘free radical damage’ caused by environmental pollution, aging and dietary habits and have used the therapy as part of a longevity / preventative health strategy.
How Chelation Therapy Works
By binding onto various minerals, the chelation treatment can ‘pull’ or remove these (toxic) minerals from the body in a safe manner. The mode of treatment allows for the minerals to be excreted through the urine, reducing the level of the minerals in the body and, hence, reducing or eliminating their ability to cause disease. The recipient’s health can benefit from this process in a number of ways.
Patients who suffer from atherosclerosis (ie. a blockage and hardening of larger vessels – such as those of the coronary arteries of the heart – those which are treated with bypass surgery), arteriosclerosis (a blockage and hardening of smaller vessels – such as those in peripheral vessels) and coronary artery disease are prime candidates for chelation. While the way in which it works is complicated and an area of some discussion, chelation can be envisioned as working by ‘pulling out’ the calcium that lies in a hard shell that forms over the plaques that form in blood vessels. By removing the mineral support, the ‘shell’ is broken down and the underlying deposits caused by cholesterol (etc.) become exposed and can then be dissolved and the blockages removed.
The main way chelation works is by reversing the free radical formations, which damage the vessels in the first place, leaving them susceptible to accumulations of fatty deposits. This process is described in Bypassing Bypass (1990). By reversing the free radical damage and removing the hard shell, the vessels not only become unblocked, they regain their ability to flex and expand, that is to say they loose the hard, rigid status. This leads to the ability of the vessels to respond to exertion, increases rate of circulation, decreases spasms and repairs damage to the vessel linings themselves.
Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons, Senile Dementia
Chelation works for these conditions first by binding onto and removing minerals known to be causative in Alzheimer’s and suspected in Parkinson’s. Aluminum has been associated with Alzheimer’s since the 1980s. If one removes aluminum from one’s body, future damage is prevented and existing damage caused by the minerals is repaired. With Senile Dementia and Vascular Dementia, chelation serves to increase blood flow through all vessels in the body (not just the heart). Chelation works at a variety of levels, by increasing circulation to the brain, removing toxic materials and providing repair to free radical damage (to brain tissue),
While this heading is a simplification of a huge spectrum of diseases, several cancers are linked to damage to cells caused by toxic metal accumulations and free radical damage. These causative factors trigger a process wherein the immune system’s ‘oncogenes’ are not able to control the development of cancerous cells. Chelation removes the offending toxic materials and provides aggressive anti-oxidant support to free radical damaged tissue. Years of clinical data and case reports (available through the American College for the Advancement of Medicine) reveal profound results in cancer patients treated with chelation. Of course, these patients should first be screened for the presence of heavy metals etc.
Much in the way that chelation reverses toxic metal accumulations in cancer and heart disease patients, numerous studies show marked improvements in arthritis patients after chelation therapy. A reduction in the accumulated toxic metal crystals serves to reduce their ability to promote inflammatory responses in the arthritic joints. Likewise, reducing free radical damage serves to decrease inflammatory responses throughout the body, including sites of arthritis.
Many autistic patients have been found to have substantially elevated levels of mercury, lead and other heavy metals- chelation will remove these. Much clinical evidence indicates that the patients show rapid improvements upon removal of these toxic metals. As ‘heavy metals’ are known to be neurotoxins, removing them in a developmentally delayed or impaired individual serves a logical purpose.
A Summary of the Actions of EDTA Chelation
•Free Radical Control: As mentioned above, free radicals cause cell destruction via a process called ‘lipid oxidation’. Lipid oxidation is caused by metal ‘ions’ being inserted into the cell membranes. Chelation removes the ions that cause the damage, allowing for repairs on a cellular level
•Re-established normal prostaglandin hormone balance: Prostaglandins are hormones involved in vessel spasms, clot formation and arthritis. There must be a constant balance between the different types of prostaglandins. Lipid oxidation caused by free radical exposure promotes too much of the prostaglandins which form clots, cause spasms in vessels etc. Chelation corrects the lipid oxidation and hence reduces the prostaglandins that cause problems.
•Protects Blood Platelets: Platelets are the blood cells that clot together to stop bleeding. They also cause vessels to spasm by producing a substance called ‘thromboxane’. When platelets come into contact with EDTA, they reduce their tendency to stick together. Patients with impaired circulation, diabetes, vascular dementia, etc. will have greater blood flow and not require blood thinners (which cause a litany of other side effects).
•Improves Energy Production Inside Cells: Every cell has a ‘furnace’ (called the mitochondria) that produces energy required for the cell to survive. EDTA stabilizes the membranes of this ‘furnace,’ allowing for increased energy metabolism. This allows for greater cell function, survival and exertion.
•Improves Tissue Flexibility: As aging occurs, we are exposed to toxins (smoking, alcohol, chemicals, toxic heavy metals, etc.) and the cells in our tissues develop cross-links between large protein molecules. This leaves the tissue rigid, with a loss of flexibility, and results in wrinkles and sagging of the skin. Chelation has shown an ability to break these cross-links, resulting in a reduction of age spots, a healthier colour to the skin and a more youthful appearance.
Criticisms of Chelation Therapy
Most people who criticize chelation attack its role and use in the treatment of heart disease. No one debates its ability to remove toxic metals but, ironically, question its use in conditions known to be caused by toxic metal accumulations (such as Alzheimer’s). These very same experts rarely demonstrate a personal awareness of the existing research / evidence regarding chelation, over 400 trials and extensive clinical data having been conducted on the therapy since its invention.
As illustration, most cardiologists and doctors who dismiss chelation in the treatment of angina, blocked coronary arteries, atherosclerosis and arteriosclerosis refer to a 1963 study by Drs. Kitchell and Meltzer, published in the American Journal of Cardiology (11; 501-506). They reported that chelation offered “no benefit” in treating heart disease patients and this opinion is the ‘gold standard’ brought up by modern day chelation critics. The problem is that the actual results of this 1963 study did not agree with their stated conclusion of “no benefit.” In fact, review of the data by several researchers showed that 64 of the patients had a reduction of symptoms after only 20 treatments, and 46 were still showing improvements 18 months after treatments ceased. Interestingly, at the time of this new study, Dr. Kitchell was on the payroll of the company developing the ‘Internal Mammary Artery Bypass,’ the forerunner to the current bypass surgery procedure.
What Criticisms of Chelation Leave Out
To reiterate, there have been over 400 studies on chelation therapy. Not one regarding heart disease, when the actual data is reviewed (ie. instead of the author’s conclusions), shows anything but indications of benefits. The American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM) has reviewed all trial evidence and recorded that more than 75% of patients treated with chelation for cardiovascular symptoms have shown significant improvements and over 90% have benefited when they received 35 or more treatments and followed diet, exercise and lifestyle advice.
Drs. Chappell, M.D., and Stahl, PhD, (published in the Journal for the Advancement in Medicine, 1994;7) reviewed 19 studies on the use of chelation on 22,765 patients. They found that these 19 medical studies all showed measurable and sustainable improvements in blood circulation (determined by before and after treatment medical tests) in 88 of the patients treated.
Statistics that the critics don’t talk about regarding cardiovascular health are equally interesting.
•A 10-year study by the American National Institute of Health compared survival rates of those who had bypass surgery and those who did nothing to treat their heart disease. The results showed those who received the risky bypass (with noteworthy mortality from the operation itself) were no more likely to live longer, be healthier or have fewer heart symptoms than those who did absolutely nothing to treat their conditions.
•The American Journal of Cardiology (June 15, 1998; 81(12): 1393-1399) reported that in a 22-year follow-up study of bypass patients, bypass offered “neither survival nor symptomatic benefits.”
It is important to be aware of both sides so one can be aware of the large amount of data on both allopathic and naturopathic modalities. Critics say chelation doesn’t have enough evidence to support its use, despite the extensive data. They do not, however, say the same when scientific evidence clearly questions the value and use of bypass. Stent implants have even less success than bypass, and both had significant mortality and post-operative symptoms such as depression, increased chest pain etc. In keeping with standards of ‘evidence-based medicine’ chelation’s extensive clinical and trial evidence should be treated with the same standards as surgical and pharmaceutical options.
•Between 1964 and 1968 several studies were published on the use of chelation in the treatment of diabetic circulatory diseases. Every trial demonstrated improved circulation in both the impaired vessels in the legs of the diabetic patients as well as the arteries and veins throughout their bodies (Angiology 1964, 15:379-394; Journal of the American Geriatric Society 1966;14: 272-294).
•A study of patients with peripheral vascular disease (impaired circulation in the peripheral limbs – mainly legs and some arms), showed that 91 had a ‘marked improvement’ after chelation therapy (Medical Hypothesis 1988;27: 41 -49).
•Dr. J. Bjorksten published a summary of studies on chelation and concluded that chelation therapy could increase the lifespan of man by 12% (Rejuvenation 1980; 8:59-66).
•Drs. McDonagh, Rudolph and Cheraskin published a study on patients with impaired cerebral vascular arterial blood flow (those with vascular dementia, Alzheimer’s, etc). Their study revealed that 88% of the patients showed objective (ie. measured by medical testing) improvements in cerebrovascular blood flow (Journal of Holistic Medicine, 1982; 4(1):21-23).
•Dr. Schettler performed a study on EDTA chelation for the drug company Tiemann Pharmaceuticals (who make a medication used to prevent platelette aggregation -Fludilat). It showed that the patients who received chelation increased their walking distance by 250% while the drug caused a 64% increase. When reviewing these results, the company then dropped several of the chelation patients from the study’s data and concluded that chelation offered “no benefit.”
•Drs. Cranton and Blumer published a remarkable study on the possible preventative role of chelation in cancer development. They provided chelation to patients who lived beside a highway and who were exposed to lead-based exhaust fumes and then followed them and their neighbours for 18 years. Only one of the chelated patients died of cancer while 30 of the 172 non-chelated patients studied died (Journal of Advancement in Medicine 1989;2(1,2): 183-188). This translates into a 90% reduction in cancer mortality!
It is important to note that the data demonstrating the effectiveness of chelation come from well-controlled and peer-reviewed studies.
•www.acam.org -Website for the American College For Advancement In Medicine
•www.icimed.com – Website for The International College of Integrative Medicine
•www.autismanswer.com – Website on the role of chelation in the treatment of autism
•Dr. Cranton, Elmer. Bypassing Bypass. (2nd ed.) Virginia: Hampton Roads Publishing Co., 1990.
•Halstead, Bruce, and Rozema, Theodore. The Scientific Basis of EDTA Chelation Therapy. (2nd ed.) TRC Publishing, 1997.
•Brecher, Arline, and Brecher, Harold. Forty Something Forever: A Consumer’s Guide To Chelation Therapy and Other Heart Savers. Health Savers Press, 1992.