When medical researchers first investigated the phenomenon known as hardening of the arteries (closely related to atherosclerosis
Some early researchers investigated the possible therapeutic effect of removing such deposits. However, subsequent research indicated that the calcium deposits of atherosclerosis were a symptom rather than a cause, and mainstream interest turned elsewhere. Certain physicians nonetheless maintained an interest in removing calcium; thus chelation therapy was born.
Chelation therapy for heart disease consists of intravenous infusions of a chemical called EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid). This synthetic substance is used in conventional medicine to remove heavy metals, such as lead, from the body, but it also has an effect on calcium, which is why it came into use in chelation therapy.
Proponents claim that EDTA chelation is an effective alternative to heart surgery, and that it also offers many other health benefits. To support this, they cite numerous anecdotes of cures apparently brought about by its use. However, anecdotes cannot possibly prove a treatment effective. (For a detailed explanation of why this is the case, see
In 2000, a highly respected researcher reviewed the literature on chelation therapy and concluded, “The most striking finding is the almost total lack of convincing evidence for efficacy…. Only 2 controlled clinical trials were located. They provide no evidence that chelation therapy is efficacious beyond a powerful placebo effect…. Given the potential of chelation therapy to cause severe adverse effects, this treatment should now be considered obsolete.”
Subsequent to this review, a well-designed study compared chelation therapy to placebo in 84 people with coronary artery disease.
Another double-blind study evaluated the potential benefits of chelation therapy when added to conventional therapy in the treatment of people with coronary artery disease.
Not only does it appear to be ineffective, EDTA chelation therapy may present some safety risks. This treatment is generally given in a series of 10 to 30 sessions. If the practitioner fails to take proper precautions, severe adverse consequences, such as kidney damage, may result. While it appears to be the case that properly performed chelation therapy is unlikely to cause harm, we do not see any justification for using such an invasive method, in the absence of evidence that it will help.
Last reviewed April 2009 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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