Frequently Asked Questions About: EDTA Chelation

E DTA chelation is a complex and controversial therapy for which little accurate information has been made available to the general public. Despite what you may have read in the papers or heard from your doctor, thousands of scientific papers support the use of the synthetic amino acid EDTA (ethylenediamine tetraacetic acid) for enhancing cardiovascular health and for treating or preventing other chronic degenerative diseases. EDTA is a weak acid closely related to vinegar or ordinary acetic acid.

Among its many cardiovascular benefits is the ability to remove arterial plaque and thus avoid invasive and costly procedures like angioplasty and coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery. EDTA chelation has been the treatment of choice for heavy metal poisoning for more than half a century, even in children. This is its one use that is not controversial. Even the FDA supports it.

Life enhancement has published two major articles on EDTA chelation in recent months, including an exclusive interview with Garry Gordon, MD, DO, the “Father of Chelation Therapy.” (See Life enhancement #32, April 1997.) If you have not read these articles, we urge you to do so, because chelation, using intravenous and/or oral EDTA is one of the safest and most valuable therapies available today for a wide variety of ailments. We feel that everyone should know about chelation and have access to this valuable therapy.

Because EDTA chelation is such a complex subject, many people have been asking us questions about it. The following FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) is a compilation of some of the most important ones. If, after reading this FAQ, there are aspects of EDTA chelation that are still unclear, we urge you to contact Life enhancement (by phone, mail, e-mail or fax), and we will do our best to answer them either over the phone or in a future issue of the magazine.

Q. The American Heart Association (AHA) claims there is no scientific evidence to demonstrate any benefit from EDTA chelation. Are they wrong?

A. Yes, they are. The AHA has declared that EDTA chelation is an “unproven treatment.” As we mentioned above, there are as many as 10,000 scientific papers supporting its use in many different areas.

The primary articles the AHA and other establishment medical organizations rely on to “debunk” EDTA use are two Danish studies1,2 and a New Zealand study3 purporting to show that EDTA chelation was no better than a placebo for treating peripheral vascular disease of the legs.

What the AHA fails to point out is that the Danish studies 1) provided insufficient treatment for the patient population selected, and 2) were condemned by the Danish Committee for Investigation into Scientific Dishonesty because of improper randomization and double-blinding, as well as for premature breaking of the blinding code. The Committee indicated that these practices amounted to deliberate bias on the part of the researchers.

The New Zealand study also had severe methodological flaws: 1) It used a placebo control that actually had chelating properties of its own, and 2) despite this fact, when two independent American statisticians re-examined the raw data, they concluded that the results actually supported the efficacy of EDTA chelation.4 These studies also have negligible significance when you consider the overwhelming evidence in the scientific literature on the positive aspects of EDTA. Another point to make is that many members of the AMA may view EDTA as an economic threat to their livelihood.

Q. I Thought chelation therapy was only for old people with heart problems. I’m still young and active. Do I need it?

A. It’s true that the most dramatic successes in reversing established cardiovascular disease have been achieved in older people, because they tend to be the ones with overt disease. However, there are many reasons for younger people to undergo chelation with EDTA as well.

For example, even if you have no overt signs of heart disease, the typical American diet begins leaving its mark early in life. Unless you have particularly “good genes,” it’s likely that you have some atherosclerotic plaque in your arteries, even though routine non-invasive tests can’t detect it. Fatty streaks have even been observed in the arteries of children.

These deposits may not be enough to cause any problems at this stage in your life, and for some people they may never cause any problems. Nevertheless, the damage does accumulate.

So, you can wait until you’re 70 years old and begin I.V. chelation to clean out your arteries (assuming you haven’t suffered a heart attack or stroke by then), or you can start taking oral EDTA now to clean out your arteries and keep them clean for years to come. Prophylactic oral EDTA is among the safest, gentlest, most effective, and least costly routes known to cardiovascular health.

Q. Does that mean I should be giving oral EDTA to my children, too?

A. No. Children are different from adults, and there isn’t sufficient evidence to support use in children except for a clearly defined exception: treating heavy metal — especially lead — poisoning. Lead poisoning has become less of a threat in recent years because of successful efforts to remove lead from gasoline and paint, but there is still one source of lead poisoning that has been given very little attention because of the high cost involved. That source is plumbing — especially plumbing in older cities.

If your drinking water is coming to you via lead pipes, as it does in many older cities, or if you have an old sink or bathtub painted with lead-based paint, you may be ingesting more lead than you should (and you shouldn’t be ingesting any). Lead can damage the kidneys, nervous system, and the brain. Children aged 9 months through 5 years are at the greatest risk, but lead is not good for anyone.

Of course, EDTA chelation is the standard “FDA-approved” therapy for lead poisoning. It is simply the most effective agent ever discovered for safely “chelating,” or removing, excess lead from the body. The EDTA basically binds with the lead molecules in the body and takes them out of the body via the urine. Preventing and treating lead poisoning was the original use for EDTA as far back as World War II, when workers in lead battery factories and painters using lead-based paint used to take it to compensate for their high exposure.

If you’re concerned that your children (not to mention yourself or other adults in your family) might be exposed to lead, you can have blood levels tested. And you (but not your children) can start taking oral EDTA regularly as a precaution.

Q. How do I know if EDTA is working?

A. That’s a simple and important question with a complex answer. Much depends on why you’re taking it and how sick you are. If you have serious or advanced cardiovascular disease with major occlusions, there are various objective measures your doctor can use to gauge your progress. These include tests for blood lipid, homocysteine, lipoprotein a, and fibrinogen levels, platelet aggregation tests, various functional tests (treadmill, Master’s two-step, etc.), and non-invasive doppler tests of blood flow. If EDTA is doing what it should, these tests should indicate objective improvements.

Just as important, you may start feeling better as blood starts to reach areas of your body in greater volume than it has in years. Improved circulation due to EDTA treatment has been shown to result in such changes as better memory function, reversal of diabetic gangrene, decreased macular degeneration and improved vision in people with diabetic neuropathy, reduced intermittent claudication, and improved heart function.

Such improvements are bound to make you feel better, more energetic, and more alert. If you have any doubt, try testing your mental function objectively using ThinkfastPRO (See page 7).

If you’re still in good health and are taking oral EDTA to head off serious disease later on, the changes and benefits you may experience are likely to be more subtle, as they are with most nutritional supplements. You don’t take vitamin E because it makes you feel better on any given day. You take it because years of scientific research have validated its benefits. And you continue to take it because you’re remaining healthy, energetic, and active while you do.

Preventive maintenance requires a bit of a leap of faith: there’s always the question, “Would I get sick if I didn’t follow a preventive course or if I stopped doing so?” Do you wait until your car won’t start anymore to bring it in to your mechanic, or do you bring it in every few thousand miles for a check-up?

Sure, you could stop any preventive regime for a couple of years and see if something developed. But who would want to take such a high risk? The only real way to answer the question is to let the scientific literature and reason guide your decision. It is the only objective source of information we’ve got.

Q. Do I have to take EDTA forever?

A. You don’t have to do anything. Again, like any nutritional supplement, you never outgrow your need for vitamin E or DHEA. We’re not talking about an antibiotic here. EDTA doesn’t cure a disease and then pack up and leave. It is a long-term preventive treatment that works only as long as you continue to take it, and, like vitamin E and many other nutrients and hormones, your need for it may actually increase with age, as the aging process puts greater and greater stresses on the body.

Q. I thought chelation meant long hours attached to an I.V. drip? Is oral EDTA just as good?

A. There are two different forms of EDTA chelation: intravenous (I.V.) and oral (capsules). Both are effective, but they are not equivalent and should be used in different ways. While I.V. EDTA chelation is the most well-known and widely practiced form of this therapy, oral EDTA actually predates I.V.

Early on, oral EDTA became embroiled in a political struggle within the medical chelation community. As described by Dr. Gary Gordon, a leader and chelation advocate since the early 1960s, the lead industry was giving workers oral EDTA to reduce their risk of lead poisoning. While this may sound like a noble effort, they were using this therapy as an excuse for not cleaning up the men’s working conditions. As a result, Dr. Gordon claims he was forced to downplay the efficacy of oral EDTA in favor of the I.V. form. (For a more complete explanation see Life enhancement #32, April 1997.)

It became evident that I.V. EDTA was such a powerful treatment for established disease that this form basically took over and the oral form, condemned (under duress) by the leading chelation physician in the country, simply fell by the wayside. Why use something less powerful when you have something that’s even more powerful?

Since that time, considerable evidence has accumulated indicating that oral EDTA is even more efficacious than was first thought. It is now clear that both oral and I.V. EDTA have their place. Dr. Gordon, for example, recommends I.V. EDTA when a person has advanced disease that requires rapid treatment. If you have angina pectoris or some other sign of occlusive arterial disease, you are at risk for a heart attack and stroke and need immediate and decisive therapy.

In I.V. chelation therapy, a patient typically receives about 1500 mg to 3000 mg of EDTA (plus other nutrients) per session. Oral EDTA is much slower acting, because only about 3% to 8% of an oral dose gets absorbed (compared with 100% of an I.V. dose). Someone taking 800 mg of EDTA per day is absorbing only about 40 mg. This was once looked upon as a disadvantage for oral EDTA, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, low levels of EDTA have advantages all their own, especially in the area of preventive maintenance.

As Dr. Gordon explains it, 40 mg per day works out to about 1200 mg per month. Thus, on a theoretical basis, at least, 1 to 2 months of oral EDTA is therapeutically equivalent to a single session of I.V. therapy. If you’re not in a hurry (translation: If you do not have serious disease, but just want to head off trouble) oral EDTA should have all the benefits of I.V. EDTA infusions.

Dr. Gordon thinks that oral EDTA also has a role to play as an adjunct to I.V. therapy. He often recommends that patients receiving monthly I.V. infusions also take the oral form to continue the benefits and to prevent any return of atherosclerotic plaque between treatments.

Q. Since EDTA works in part by removing calcium from atherosclerotic plaque, isn’t there a danger it might cause osteoporosis?

A. No, quite the opposite. EDTA may actually help prevent osteoporosis. In fact, if EDTA indiscriminately removed too much calcium from the body, osteoporosis would be the last of your problems. The heart muscle also requires a relatively large amount of calcium ions to keep on beating, yet EDTA has never been reported to cause heart failure — again, quite the opposite.

The physiology involved is fairly complex but, in simple terms, the body is programmed to protect itself from low calcium levels. If calcium levels start to drop, the parathyroid gland kicks in and starts secreting parathormone which “steals” back enough calcium from the EDTA chelates to keep the heart beating normally and to activate cells called osteoblasts, which strengthen and rebuild bone. As Dr. Gordon has said, “The more chelation we give people, the less osteoporosis they have and the less age-related calcium accumulation there is in their blood vessels.”

Q. Does EDTA play a role in treating kidney stones?

A. Yes, it does. Because kidney stones are usually composed of calcium and oxylate, and because virtually all EDTA passes through the kidneys on its way out of the body, EDTA is perfectly capable of dissolving them. In fact, in Europe, direct infusion of kidneys (through the ureter) is a fairly common means of treating large kidney stones. I.V. or oral EDTA can also help dissolve kidney stones.

Q. Does EDTA remove other minerals besides calcium? Could this be a problem?

A. EDTA can and will remove other minerals besides calcium. In particular, EDTA binds with zinc, copper, and magnesium. For this reason, it is recommended that people using EDTA make sure they are also taking a good mineral supplement to make up for what they might be losing. Use EDTA with the standard dosage of our new multivitamin, multimineral supplement, Enhance,™ and you’ll be getting sufficient minerals.

Q. Is there any reason to take EDTA to help prevent heart disease if I’m also taking aspirin?

A. Yes, definitely. Aspirin has been proven to significantly reduce the blood’s clotting ability, which makes it a simple, inexpensive, relatively safe, and valuable contribution to preventing heart attacks and strokes. But it is far from perfect, since it only reduces risk by about 25% and causes serious problems for some people. In fact, all of the three major blood “thinners” — aspirin, coumadin (also used in rat poison), and vitamin E, are only partially effective, because they each affect only about one-third of the many mechanisms involved in blood clotting. No one of them alone can solve the entire problem.

By contrast, EDTA is designed to prevent abnormal blood clotting. Paradoxically, although EDTA prevents abnormal blood clotting, it does not prevent the normal clotting of blood that occurs when you get a cut, a major problem with other anticlotting agents. If you’re thinking about taking aspirin to prevent heart disease, think again, and consider taking oral EDTA instead.

References

  1. Guldager B, Jelnes R, Jorgensen S, et al. EDTA treatment of intermittent claudication — a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. J Intern Med. 1992;231:261–267.
  2. Sloth-Nielsen J, Guldager B, Mouritzen C, et al. Arteriographic findings in EDTA chelation therapy on peripheral arteriosclerosis. Am J Surg. 1991;162:122–125.
  3. van Rij A, Solomon C, Packer S, Hopkins W. Chelation therapy for intermittent claudication: a double-blind, randomized, controlled trial. Circulation. 1991;162:122–125.
  4. Gundy P. Cardiovascular diseases remain nation’s leading cause of death. JAMA. 1992;267:335–336.

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