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What is Chelation Therapy and What is the Scientific Basis for its Use?

What is EDTA chelation therapy?
In medicine, chelation is used to rid the body of excess or toxic metals such as lead or calcium (as in hypercalcemia). For example, a person who has lead poisoning may be given chelation therapy in order to bind and remove excess lead from the body before it can cause damage. In the case of EDTA chelation therapy, the substance that binds and removes metals and minerals is EDTA (ethylene diamine tetra-acetic acid), a synthetic, or man-made, amino acid that is delivered intravenously (through the veins).
EDTA was first used in the 1940s for the treatment of heavy metal poisoning. EDTA chelation removes heavy metals and 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 and alternative medicine practitioners use EDTA chelation as a way to treat this disorder.

How does chelation therapy work?
There a numerous ways in which chelation may work. The effects on humans may be a sum of all the mechanisms of action or just one – we still do not know for sure just why chelation is so helpful in atherosclerosis. The following is a list of all the mechanism by which EDTA chelation may work:

  1. EDTA chelation improves the elasticity of arteries by reducing the number of cross linkages in the connective tissue and elastic tissue comprising arterial walls. Cross linking accelerates aging is what causes skin to wrinkle, sag and loose its youthful elasticity. In the artery cross linking causes stiffness.  EDTA decreases the cross linkages in the arterial wall allowing it to expand and contract as it was designed to do. As arteries become less stiff improved circulation and lower blood pressure is a result. Lower blood pressure reduces the work the heart must do thus improving symptoms of angina.
  2. Chelation therapy can also reduce the non metallic cross linkages that occur between molecules such as sulfur to sulfur cross linkages. One of the metals EDTA removes in aluminum. Aluminum can cause cross linkages between collagen and elastic tissue, making soft tissue and arteries more rigid and speeding the aging process. This makes arteries more elastic or flexible, returning them to a more youthful state. Another benefit of this is a lower blood pressure.
  3. EDTA chelation therapy is a potent antioxidant. This is the most important action of EDTA.
  4. During the short time that EDTA circulates in the body it temporarily lowers blood calcium. This signals the parathyroid gland to step up production of parathyroid hormone to help bring calcium levels back up. This may be how EDTA chelation increases bone density
  5. EDTA help balance prostaglandin production. Prostaglandins are important hormones that control inflammation, clotting and blood pressure. The two most important prostaglandins for blood vessel health are thromboxane and prostacyclin. Prostacyclin reduces platelet “stickiness”, helps prevent arterial spasm and blood clots, counters plaque formation, and improves blood flow. Thromboxane causes platelets to stick together and also promotes arterial spasm, something we definitely do not want. Prostaglandins are produced from fats in the cell membrane. The oxidation of fats in cell membranes is called “lipid peroxidation” by scientists and is one of the main ways in which cells age. The production of prostaglandins is imbalanced by the presence of oxidized fats (also know as lipid peroxidation). EDTA inhibits oxidation of lipids in the cell membrane and restores optimal prostaglandin balance. Fatty acid oxidation (lipid peroxidation) inhibits prostacyclin production. EDTA is able to reduce oxidation of fats in cell membranes by chelating out the metallic ions that cause lipid peroxidation. Measuring and reducing lipid peroxidation is a foundational element in anti-aging medicine.
  6. EDTA acts as an anticoagulant through its beneficial effect on platelets.
  7. EDTA lowers blood calcium levels and helps normalize calcium metabolism by stimulating uptake of calcium in bones. Evidence demonstrates the chelation therapy may help improve bone density.

The way I describe chelation to patients is this: You are getting a safe intravenous antioxidant that removes toxic metals, makes your blood vessels more flexible and acts as an anticoagulant all at the same time.