Chelation is a buzz word in holistic health circles. Natural doctors have used chelators for over 50 years to bind metals in the body and promote their excretion through urine and feces.
But is chelation beneficial? We will look at the data. First, let’s discuss define chelation.
The Greek word for “claw” is chele. Think of a tiny molecular claw that binds metals like iron, copper, lead, mercury and other toxins from the body. This tiny claw is known as a chelator and the process of removal is called chelation.
In cases of acute toxicity, chelation is a recognized therapy for metals like cadmium, mercury, and lead. MD’s have long prescribed other chelators for iron and copper overload, usually for genetic conditions that lead to their collection in the body.
Chelators cause also pull good elements like calcium and magnesium.
Hundreds of studies document that elevated toxic metals lead to an increased risk of:
Metals such as lead, aluminum, mercury, cadmium, iron and copper may lead to:
Although holistic doctors have used chelation for years in the name of heart attack prevention and clearing arteries, the evidence suggest something different.
Simply, there is little evidence that chelation acts like a “Draino” to the arteries. In fact, some of the worst coronary artery disease I have ever seen was in patients with chelation.
I have seen several patients who had a heart attack while under a chelation protocol.
But what does the science tell us? Let’s look at the TACT trial, published in JAMA.
This trial in patients with a HISTORY of a heart attack found that event rate (total mortality, recurrent MI, stroke, coronary revascularization, or hospitalization for angina) was lower in the chelation group. The chelation group was assigned to 40 treatments. Most patients were on conventional heart medications.
From the above chart, you can see that the risk was lower in the chelation group and 1 event was prevented after 5 years for every 18 people who were chelated. This number is called NNT (number needed to treat).
The NNT dropped to 6 people if they also had diabetes.
Although the numbers were small and not considered statistically relevant, 6 FEWER people died in the chelation group.
Another trial found that chelation did NOT help ischemia or exercise duration.
Other trials were small. Some showed benefit. Some did not. Some animal and ex vivo (non-living) did show reversal of calcification. Hopefully we will see more trials going forward.
Chelation is a serious commitment. 40 treatments are the standard in those with a history of heart attack and on conventional meds. That is a lot of time AND expense with the holistic doctor.
My clinical experience shows chelation can make a stable situation unstable.
The real benefit was people with a heart attack who also had diabetes. If you have diabetes AND suffered from a heart attack, IV chelation may be a good route for you.
For the rest of society, I think there is a better way.
There are many ways to test for metals including blood, hair and urine. All have pros and cons to their use. Of note, the TACT trial did not assess for metals before treatment. You could say why bother? If you fit the criteria of heart attack and diabetic, just chelate.
I like metal testing in blood and urine, finding this information very useful.
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