History of Chelation Therapy

EDTA (Ethylene diamine tetra acetic acid)  is a synthetic amino acid which has the ability to attach itself to metals and minerals, forming a particular kind of bond called a chelate.  Heavier metals have a greater affinity for EDTA and form stronger bonds.

Early in its history, in the 40’s and 50’s EDTA was found to be an effective treatment for lead toxicity and was approved as a safe drug for that purpose.  In many cases, patients who coincidentally has symptoms of heart disease, such as angina, improved while undergoing the lead toxicity treatment.  Since that time, a number of studies have confirmed the effectiveness of chelation therapy for blood vessel disease, including improved blood flow to the heart, the legs and the brain.  They have been published in reputable journals by experienced physicians and medical researchers.

Two events occurred which slowed down the growing use of EDTA in traditional medical settings.  One was the expiration of the patent on EDTA.  It became less profitable to drug companies to pursue of finance studies on the drug.  The other was the development of the heart-lung machine allowing open heart surgery.  Coronary artery bypass surgery has become a multi-billion dollar industry.  Even today there is controversy about how much of the bypass surgery that is done is actually necessary.  There are not good studies supporting the value of the extensive amount of bypass surgery that is being performed today.

The exact action of EDTA in improving blood vessel disease is not clear, and it probably works by several mechanisms.  One theory of aging and degenerative disease is the “Free Radical ” theory.

Free radicals are highly active molecular fragments formed during the production of energy, like sparks in a fireplace, and this energy can be used by the body, when properly handled.

However, if these free radicals get out of control they can cause damage to surrounding tissues, just as sparks that get out of the fireplace can cause the rug to catch fire.  Excess free radicals contribute to the obvious signs of aging such as wrinkling and loss of elasticity of the skin, and the deposition of age pigment (commonly called liver spots).  Internal damage is less visible but more serious.

In addition to the information of free radicals in the body, you are exposed to them in the environment.  They are found in cigarette smoke in high amounts, and also polluted air.  They are caused by radiation and rancid oils, by hydrogenated oil such as those found in margarine and shortening, and by many therapeutic drugs.

Heavy metals cause an increased production of free radicals.  One of the most interesting properties of EDTA is the removal of lead and other heavy metals that have accumulated in the body.  Iron leads to the production of free radicals.  Heavy metals are directly toxic.  Removal of iron and heavy metals with chelation is thought to help prevent and reverse the tissue damage of vascular disease.

For protection from free radicals, our body has a number of defenses.  You produce enzymes that are free radical scavengers, as are many nutrients.  These include vitamin C and E, beta-carotene, bioflavonoids, coenzyme Q10, sulfur amino acids and many others.  These protect you from aging and degeneration.

Free radicals, with their high energy levels, are thought to contribute to the development of heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and certain immune system disorders.  A study done in Zurich,Switzerland showed a markedly lower incidence of cancer among patients who had received chelation therapy.  This makes a strong case for chelation inhibiting free radical formation.

Although most patients are treated with chelation for vascular disease, it has may other benefits as well as preventative medicine.  Specific benefits are found in diabetic arterial disease, macular degeneration, decreased mental function from vascular disease, osteoporosis, intermittent claudication (leg pain on exercise), and other conditions.

There have been no serious side effects from the treatment since the 1950’s, when it was first being administered.  We have learned much about the treatment since then, and it is now safely administered by physicians certified by the American Board of Clinical Metal Toxicology (ABCMT: www.abcmt.org ).

For further information, I recommend Bypassing Bypass by Elmer Cranton, MD, which is an in-depth review, and has a chapter on free radicals, or The Chelation Way by Morton Walker, DPM.  Another review is Forty Something Forever, by Arlene Brecher.  A shorter book is The Healing Powers of Chelation Therapy, by Drs. Trowbridge and Walker.

Heart disease is the number one killer in America.  Bypass surgery is expensive and risky, and has not been shown to be clear of benefit. Angioplasty, especially utilizing the drug eluting stents, has also shown long term adverse effects.  To ignore such an important yet benign treatment as chelation is short-sighted.