Chelation Therapy Boulder/Denver


By Stephen W. Parcell, ND

The fact that heavy metals cause oxidative stress and associated cardiovascular disease is undisputed in the literature (Valko, Morris, & Cronin, 2005; Wolf & Baynes, 2007). Heavy metals, particularly mercury, may contribute to atherosclerosis (Landmark & Aursnes, 2004). The negative cardiovascular effects of mercury stem from its ability to worsen a number of important biological processes involved in heart disease such as oxidative stress, inflammation, thrombosis (clotting), vascular smooth muscle dysfunction, endothelial dysfunction, cholesterol, immune fuction, and mitochondrial dysfunction (Houston, 2007). 

Lead is also a problem. Lead can raised blood pressure by damaging the kidneys. Measurement of blood lead levels is not the best way to test it. Blood primarily reflects recent/current lead exposure and does not reveal past exposure. Measurement of urinary lead excretion after EDTA provocation provides the best estimation of total body lead burden (Vaziri, 2008).

Chelation literally means "to chemically bind to." Chelation therapy is used to remove toxic metals such as lead and arsenic, or minerals such as iron and calcium from the blood. Chelation can be administered either orally or intravenously. Chelation has many effects on the body. The net effect is a reversal of many age-related changes. Chelation is one of the most profound anti-aging treatments available because toxic metals accelerate aging.

In conventional medicine, chelation is used to rid the body of excess or toxic metals such as lead or calcium (as in hypercalcemia). EDTA is FDA approved for heavy metal poisoning, digitalis toxicity and elevated blood calcium levels. A person who has lead poisoning may be given chelation therapy in order to remove excess lead from the body before it can cause damage.

What is EDTA? EDTA (ethylene diamine tetra-acetic acid), a synthetic amino acid that is delivered intravenously. EDTA was first used in the 1940s for the treatment of heavy metal poisoning. EDTA chelation removes minerals from the blood such as lead, iron, copper and calcium and is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in treating lead poisoning and toxicity from other heavy metals.

Although it is not approved by the FDA to treat heart disease, some physicians use EDTA chelation as a way to treat this disorder. It may be effective because it reduces oxidative stress, lowers toxic metals is anticoagulant (decreases clotting), lowers serum calcium and lowers blood pressure. 
Does EDTA chelation therapy have side effects?

When used as approved by the FDA for treatment of heavy metal poisoning, EDTA has a low occurrence of side effects. The most common side effect is a burning sensation experienced at the site where the EDTA is delivered into the veins. Rare side effects can include low blood pressure, headache and nausea. Injury to the kidneys has been reported with EDTA chelation therapy, but it is rare. Other serious side effects can occur if EDTA is not administered by a trained health professional.
Does EDTA chelation therapy reverse atherosclerosis?

In some cases it may help but this depends on many factors. We have noticed that it is most effective when elevated levels of heavy metals are present. Several theories have been proposed for the mechanism of action.

One theory suggests that EDTA chelation might work by directly removing calcium found in fatty plaques that block the arteries, causing the plaques to break up. Another is that the process of chelation may stimulate the release of a hormone that in turn causes calcium to be removed from the plaques or causes a lowering of cholesterol levels. A third theory is that EDTA chelation therapy may work by reducing the damaging effects of oxygen ions (oxidative stress) on the walls of the blood vessels.

Reducing oxidative stress could reduce inflammation in the arteries and improve blood vessel function. Since EDTA is also an anticoagulant it may work by preventing the collection of platelets which can lead to formation of blood clots on the walls of blood vessels. In addition, intravenous treatments often include high dose magnesium and vitamins which have their own beneficial effects.

Magnesium, in particular, is an effective treatment for high blood pressure, coronary spasm and congestive heart failure. Magnesium reduces inflammation, endothelial dysfunction, oxidative stress and blood clotting. Magnesium also acts as a mild calcium blocker and as a vasodilator. Chelation therapy may actually work because of the sum of all the biochemical and physiologic effects that is has.
Is There Evidence That EDTA Chelation Therapy Reverses Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)?

The bulk of the evidence supporting the use of EDTA chelation therapy is in the form of case reports and case series, published in peer review journals but lacking the numbers of patients we typically like to see. Many patients who have undergone chelation therapy have improvement in CAD symptoms such as chest pain. Chelation may also be able to lower plaque in the arteries as measured by EBCT heart scans, though this finding has not been published. In addition, there are approximately 12 published studies and 5 randomized controlled clinical trials regarding the use of EDTA chelation for CAD.

Can chelation therapy be used to prevent restenosis in patients following percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA)?
Recently a multicenter, retrospective study was completed on 220 patients with known vascular disease treated from 1992- 2001 with I.V. EDTA and followed for three years. This study demonstrated that in those patients who received chelation, fewer cardiac events occurred and less procedures were needed than the untreated group. Of the patients who received chelation only 4% needed repeat angioplasties and none required coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG). In the untreated group 22.3 % needed repeat angioplasties and 11.8 % needed CABG.
How frequently is EDTA chelation therapy used?
It is estimated by the American College for Advancement in Medicine, a professional association that supports the use of chelation therapy, that more than 800,000 visits for chelation therapy were made in the United States in 1997 alone. Since the 1950s millions of EDTA infusions have been administered. Typically, 30 to 40 initial IV infusions are given and then the patient is re-evaluated for maintenance therapy.
What is the cost of chelation therapy?
This will depend on the frequency of treatment and dose of EDTA. Typically it costs between $2,000 and $3,000 for an effective course of treatment over one year.
Why is chelation therapy not more widely accepted?

The answers are as follows:
We are still waiting for more studies with larger numbers of patients. Because of this, chelation therapy (for cardiovascular disease) is not taught in hospitals or medical schools. The patent ran out on EDTA many years ago so there is no financial incentive for drug companies to do the studies. This is why the current study is being paid for by the National Institutes of Health (US government funded). This is called the TACT 2.

See an expert in Boulder, Colorado.

Steve Parcell, ND practices in the greater Denver/Boulder Colorado area and has been certified in EDTA chelation therapy since 2003 through the American College for the Advancement in Medicine (ACAM). Chelation treatments must be administered by a trained medical professional because EDTA can affect kidney function and can be dangerous if administered improperly. Currently the only certification course on EDTA chelation is offered by ACAM.

Houston, M. C. (2007). The role of mercury and cadmium heavy metals in vascular disease, hypertension, coronary heart disease, and myocardial infarction. Altern Ther Health Med, 13(2), S128-133.
Landmark, K., & Aursnes, I. (2004). [Mercury, fish, fish oil and the risk of cardiovascular disease]. Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen, 124(2), 198-200.
Valko, M., Morris, H., & Cronin, M. T. (2005). Metals, toxicity and oxidative stress. Curr Med Chem, 12(10), 1161-1208.
Vaziri, N. D. (2008). Mechanisms of lead-induced hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol, 295(2), H454-465.
Wolf, M. B., & Baynes, J. W. (2007). Cadmium and mercury cause an oxidative stress-induced endothelial dysfunction. Biometals, 20(1), 73-81.