The Abuses of Chelation Therapy

Chelation therapy is a method of ridding the body of toxic elements such as lead and mercury. It is a valid method that is misused by certain CAM practitioners.

It is a series of administrations of disodium ethylenediamminetetraacetate (which for obvious reasons is usually referred to as EDTA) and various other substances either intravenously or swallowed in pill form. The EDTA ion bonds with the toxin producing a molecule the body can excrete. So far so good. However sites such as this one make many claims for chelation therapy that have no credible evidence to support them:

Chelation therapy is widely used for the treatment of atherosclerosis and other chronic degenerative diseases involving the circulatory system. It also has other benefits. Many scientists suggest that the beneficial effect of chelation treatment is from the removal of metallic catalysts that causes excessive free radical proliferation. This reduces the oxidation of lipids, DNA, enzyme systems and lipoproteins. The chelation halts the bad effects and initiates the body’s healing process, often reversing the damage. It removes the calcium and copper anions from the blood stream. The plaque lining the artery walls are made porous and brittle. Eventually they may get dislodged. Even if only a microscopic layer of the plaque is removed, it, along with a smoothening of the artery wall due to the healing of the cells that line the arteries, can improve the blood flow to the artery muscles substantially. This can prevent artery spasm and minimize or prevent angina pain. Many patients who could not walk due to muscle pain or angina pain have reported that they can walk without pain after chelation therapy.

Note the opening claim that it is “widely used for … chronic degenerative diseases involving the circulatory system.” One could be forgiven for believing that this technique is widely used when it is not (except possibly amongst certain CAM practitioners) and thus that it is a credible treatment for heart disease. It is not and most of the claims quoted above have no evidence to support them. We just have bald assertions and hearsay anecdotes.

It is also used as a ‘cure’ for autism based on the mistaken belief, to which I referred in a previous post, that autism is caused by mercury poisoning. So otherwise healthy children are subjected to a risky procedure that can have such harmful effects as kidney failure, cardiac arrest and death. For some reason these problems are rarely mentioned by CAM practitioners, though when treatments that are the exclusive preserve of of orthodox medicine have bad effects they never keep quiet. Maybe the NHS should pay CAM types to administer vaccinations – the antivax movement would disappear overnight.

Even if the worst harmful effects are avoided, the therapy doesn’t selectively remove only the metals that are causing harm (when they are actually present) but removes beneficial minerals as well. The CAMsters don’t mind admitting this because they can then sell the patient expensive mineral supplements to replace the ones the often unneccessary treatment has removed.

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