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Chelation Therapy

What is Chelation Therapy?

Chelation Therapy (administering an agent that removes toxic metals from the body) is a standard, accepted therapy in the treatment of metal toxicity (overt symptoms in relation to metal exposure).  However, its use, and metal detoxification in general, is considered controversial in the generalized treatment of atherosclerotic vascular disease and other degenerative diseases.  The view that Chelation therapy is of benefit in the treatment of such disorders is accepted by a minority of the medical community.  Chelation Therapy is considered “experimental” or “of unproven benefit” by most physicians.

Blood vessel being swept clean
Chelation Therapy Shows Promise in Treatment of Heart Disease and Diabetes

The double blind placebo controlled Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy (TACT trial) that was published in 2013 demonstrated safety and efficacy of Chelation Therapy when added to standard medical therapy in the treatment of individuals with prior heart attack, and similar studies have demonstrated a benefit of Chelation Therapy in chronic kidney disease.  Chelation Therapy is not an alternative or substitute for other forms of treatment, but rather as an adjunctive means of resolving disease that is due to or aggravated by a toxic metal burden.  


Chelation therapy is designed to remove metals (Lead, Cadmium, Aluminum, Nickel, Cobalt, Mercury) from the body. Metals poison enzyme systems and promote oxidative stress (free radical generation outpacing our endogenous anti-oxidant defenses), compromising multiple body systems.  Our physiology was not designed to handle toxic metals, and in industrial societies one’s metal burden rises with age and ongoing exposure.  Epidemiological studies (studies linking a specific entity with disease states) have demonstrated links between metal burden and cardiovascular, kidney, neurodegenerative disease states, and malignancy, but at this point clinical benefit of Chelation Therapy has been demonstrated only in kidney disease and for atherosclerotic coronary vascular disease (TACT study).  The chelating agents available in the US are not patentable, such that funding for wide-spread studies of Chelation Therapy in the treatment of individual disease states will not be available in the near term (the $32 million cost of TACT 1, and the similar cost of the ongoing TACT 2 studies was covered by the National Institute of Health; if TACT 2 is successful we anticipate additional research funds will be made available, but this is years away).  We believe that we do not need to wait until we experience a heart attack or develop kidney disease before beginning a program of Chelation Therapy, and that pre-emptive action to remove tissue metals is medically appropriate.


Benefits of Chelation Therapy are much greater if one follows a healthy lifestyle (non-smoking, weight control, proper exercise, proper diet, and nutritional supplementation).  An initial series of 20-40 treatments is anticipated and these treatments may be extended over a number of months and repeated from time to time in the future in order to maintain the benefits.  


If the goal is simply to remove tissue metals, then IV Chelation Therapy may serve as a mono-therapy.  If the goal is to prevent or address atherosclerotic vascular disease, Chelation Therapy does not cover or neutralize many other factors (Risk Factors) that contribute to this condition, and a comprehensive atherosclerosis assessment and treatment program is required in addition to Chelation therapy.  


Decades ago, it was hypothesized that Chelation therapy would remove calcium from the artery wall or from cardiac valves (exchanging magnesium for calcium), and/or directly remove plaque from vessels.  We do not  feel that this is how Chelation Therapy actually works. Rather, we feel the mechanism of benefit is un-poisoning our physiology and attenuating oxidative stress, such that the vessel wall is less prone to plaque formation and vascular calcification.  Vascular wall calcification does not only relate to calcium intake; rather it can be thought of as a form of “biochemical scarring”, a sequelae of plaque formation. 


Chelation therapy is extremely safe when performed by trained medical professionals.  It is administered through an IV in a medical office setting.  Chelation is not covered under Medicare or Medical Insurance at this time, except in the setting of acute metal poisoning.   


To find out if chronic heavy metal toxicity is playing a role in your health decline, and if Chelation therapy may be helpful to you, schedule an appointment today.

The Role of Toxic Metals in Cardiovascular and Renal Disease by Dr. James Roberts, Cardiologist
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