What is chelation therapy? Metallic elements such as lead, mercury, iron, arsenic, and uranium, plutonium to name a few, could be responsible for causing toxic metal poisoning in the body. This poisoning occurs when any or more of these heavy elements start accumulating in the soft tissues of the body, in an amount that may be toxic to the affected person. In humans, metals which usually cause the poisoning include lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium. And one of the effective treatment methods to deal with such a condition is what is known as the chelation therapy.
Here, a synthetic solution is injected into the blood stream of the patient. Once in the blood, this chemical binds to the heavy metals which have caused the poisoning, and they are together eliminated from the body, through the kidneys. The synthetic solution that has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of lead poisoning is called EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid). However, there are off-label uses of this therapy for poisoning caused by metals other than lead, and even for heart problems such as atherosclerosis and/or coronary artery disease.
Chelation Therapy for Heart Diseases
Speaking of blocked arteries, it may also refer to a condition known as atherosclerosis. It is characterized by the clogging up of the arteries (blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients from the heart to the rest of your body). And this could occur due to fatty deposits, such as cholesterol. These are more appropriately known as plaques or atheromas. Now, one part of these plaques could be calcium deposits. So what some experts believe is, chelating agent such as EDTA when injected into the bloodstream, latches onto the calcium deposits and gets it out from the arteries, as the agent moves through the bloodstream.
In addition to this, some health professionals are of the view that, EDTA may also help in getting rid of other metallic elements that may combine with the LDL cholesterol, which can also form plaques inside the arteries. And by doing this, the chelation therapy may actually reduce the risk of blocked arteries or atherosclerosis. Also, there are proponents who claim that this method may help improve collateral blood circulation, reduce the viscosity of blood, enhance the function of the cell membrane, and inhibit formation of free radicals, to name a few.
However, the grass may be not green on the other side of the story. No medical evidence has been deduced that can warrant the use of chelation therapy for blocked arteries or other diseases or disorders of the heart. And that is why, this method is not considered as an approved treatment procedure for heart diseases neither by the American Heart Association, nor by the FDA. In fact, there have been cases wherein, the use of the chelation therapy showed negative results in people with heart diseases. In addition to this, a study was conducted on patients with heart diseases who received this therapy. And the results came out positive, but unjustified, as they were not compared with people who did not receive the treatment.
In the year 1990, about ten patients with peripheral vascular disease were treated with the chelation therapy using EDTA. Experts who undertook the study, were of the view that EDTA was able to get rid of substances such as calcium, copper and zinc from the vascular compartment. And one of the many positive impacts of this was improved metabolism of lipoprotein and cholesterol, and decreased plaque formation. However, between the year 1963 and 1985, some physicians worked independently on over seventy patients who had undergone the chelation treatment. And most of them found no sort of improvements in the atherosclerosis plaques, nor any evidence that could show that the narrowed arteries have started to become normal again.
So, considering the mixed results of all such studies, the safety of the chelation therapy is highly debatable. Also, this therapy is not considered a safe option even in low dosage, for expecting mothers, children, and people diagnosed with heart failure or kidney failure.
Some common risks or side effects that may be caused by this therapy include:
- Sudden drop in blood pressure, causing hypotension
- Burning sensation at the injection site
- One severe side effect can be the inability to make new blood cells
Due to the uncertainty of the benefits of chelation therapy for heart diseases, it is important that the patient consults his/her doctor and be aware of the risks involved in this treatment. With the aid of the National Institute of Health, clinical trials are being conducted to determine the safety and the benefits of this therapy for heart diseases. And within a span of a few years, results of the study would be released to the masses. So, till experts come up with a more specific explanation, it is better to be on a safer side, and go for the dedicated treatment methods for conditions such as blocked arteries.