In general terms, chelation refers to the use of a variety of agents to bind some substance in the body in order to facilitate its removal. The most commonly accepted use of chelation therapy is in the treatment of heavy metal toxicity, especially lead poisoning. Both oral agents such as DMSA and IV treatments such as EDTA are FDA approved for that purpose.
What has generally not been accepted by conventional medicine is the use of IV EDTA for the treatment of cardiovascular disease. Although physicians have been providing this treatment for decades, there hasn’t been until recently a well designed clinical trial to demonstrate its effectiveness, and so chelation remained controversial.
The safety of chelation therapy has never really been an issue when it is performed according to standard protocols. The risk of complications is exceedingly low, much lower than the conventional therapies of angioplasty, bypass surgery or even medication.
The real question has always been one of effectiveness, and this was directly addressed by the recently completed TACT (Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy) coordinated by the Mt. Sinai Medical Center in Miami.
The study was a prospective, randomized placebo controlled trial which involved 1708 patients over age 50 with a history of heart attack. EDTA infusions and placebo infusions were administered in medical offices according to standard protocols (our office participated in the study).
The outcome measured was a composite of the following: mortality, coronary revascularization (angioplasty or bypass), heart attack, stroke, or angina requiring hospitalization. The results showed a statistically significant reduction in that composite in the chelation group, compared to the placebo group. This benefit was even greater in the subgroup of subjects with diabetes. The study also again confirmed the safety of chelation therapy.
The mechanism by which EDTA chelation improves cardiovascular health remains unclear. It is known that heavy metals can poison enzymes that are important in fighting free radicals and free radicals clearly have a role in LDL’s (bad cholesterol) damaging effect on blood vessels. EDTA also binds iron, which may be involved in oxidative stress, and it’s also possible that EDTA might remove calcium from arterial plaque.
Atherosclerotic vascular disease is a complex process involving inflammation, oxidative stress, hyperlipidemia, insulin dysfunction and other factors. Prevention and treatment requires a comprehensive approach to these factors, but for those with established vascular disease the TACT study shows that chelation therapy has a role in that treatment program.