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ORAL CHELATION WITH EDTA IS UNPROVEN AND POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS

by Elmer M. Cranton, M.D.

So-called “oral chelation,” using EDTA by mouth, is deceptive and potentially dangerously. This is being marketed as an effective substitute for intravenous EDTA chelation therapy. It is not!

Intravenous EDTA chelation therapy has been proven safe, effective and relatively inexpensive as a treatment for coronary heart disease, atherosclerosis and other age-related diseases. Dozens of scientific studies spanning more than 50 years prove that intravenous EDTA safely increases blood flow in diseased vessels and alleviates symptoms of cardiovascular and arterial disease. There are no scientific studies to show similar benefits from EDTA taken by mouth. And there is reason to believe that prolonged use of oral EDTA can deplete the diet of essential trace elements, causing deficiencies.

EDTA is very poorly absorbed by mouth—only about five percent. Although even that small amount does increase the urinary excretion of some metals that are unrelated to atheroslerosis, it also removes and blocks dietary uptake of zinc, manganese, chromium and other essential nutritional dietary elements from food in the gut.

While it is theoretically possible over weeks and months of daily  use to slowly absorb a substantial amount of EDTA by mouth, if taken on a daily basis, there are dangers with that:

1. The unabsorbed 95 percent of EDTA remains within the digestive tract where it mixes with undigested food, causing minerals to be tightly bound and pass through without absorption. This unabsorbed EDTA binds tightly to many essential nutritional trace elements. It prevents normal absorption of zinc, manganese, chromium, vanadium, copper, chromium, molybdenum and other essential nutrients, potentially leading to nutritional deficiencies.

2. When EDTA enters the body, either by mouth or intravenously, it removes 10 to 20 times more of the essential nutritional trace elements than it does the undesired elements that can speed ageing and cause atherosclerosis. When given intravenously, with 100% absorption, a full therapeutic dose of EDTA can be administered with only 20 to 30 daily doses over a year's time. Replenishment of metallic elements from diet can then occur during the remaining 330 or so days of the year, when EDTA is not present to interfere. Because such a small amount is absorbed by mouth, oral EDTA must be given every day to absorb what is alleged to be an effective dose, with no break to replenish the essential nutrients that are continuously being blocked and depleted.

3. Intravenous EDTA results in high therapeutic blood levels for a short time, creating a diffusion gradient within cells. EDTA remains entirely outside of cells while the benefit occurs within cells. EDTA by mouth results in very low blood levels and very little diffusion gradient, with no proven benefit in treatment of cardiovascular disease. Only with the intermittent high blood levels that occur following intravenous infusion can EDTA have the desired intracellular balancing effect.

Zinc, manganese, copper, chromium, and other essential metallic nutrients are a very important part of the body’s antioxidant defenses. Superoxide dismutase (SOD), the principle intracellular antioxidant, cannot function without copper, zinc and manganese. Catalase is another such metallo-enzyme. By inactivating these antioxidant enzymes, daily EDTA by mouth might impair antioxidant defenses and actually worsen the very problems supposedly being treated.

EDTA remains outside of cells. Oral EDTA produces only a low concentration across cell membranes throughout the body, while intravenous infusions result in much higher levels, maintained for several hours. Intravenous EDTA can thus draw unwanted metals out through cell walls by diffusion. That will not occur with EDTA by mouth.

EDTA by mouth will not produce the pulsatile release of parathormone associated with intravenous disodium EDTA. (This will also not occur if calcium EDTA is used, even intravenously.) That process can remove abnormal calcium deposits from arteries and is thought to be important for benefit. This will not occur with oral EDTA.

Oral EDTA  has been deceptively marketed for many years. Nutritional supplements containing vitamins, antioxidants, amino acids and chelated minerals are deceptively advertised and marketed as “oral chelation.” Although people may feel better while taking vitamin supplements, as evidenced by testimonials from people selling those products, that benefit is not chelation therapy. There are many other nutrients in those supplements.

Some nutrients might act as weak chelators, including vitamin C, citric acid, methionine, and cysteine. When taken into the body, however, they rapidly enter into metabolic pathways and are broken down before they can achieve effective chelating gradients. An exception would be high dose oral vitamin C, which spills over into the urine with some chelating activity. For the most part, nutrients with potential chelating properties do not remove or rebalance metals in the body in a beneficial manner.

DMSA (dimercaptosuccinic acid) is a prescription medication (Chemet(R) or succimer). It is an  effective oral  agent that is well absorbed. But it works only for mercury, lead, and arsenic. DMSA is not a true chelator and works by a different binding process involving sulfur. DMSA does not reverse coronary heart disease and does not treat arterial blockage from atherosclerosis. DMSA does not remove free radical catalysts that act as precursors of free radical pathology and causes of accelerated aging. DMSA is used only as an oral agent to hasten removal of mercury and lead (sometimes arsenic).

A heart disease patient was recently reported with advanced coronary heart disease who had extensive coronary calcification on EBCT and an enlarged heart with abnormal pumping action on echocardiogram. For many years he had been taking a daily  supplement by mouth containing up to 800 milligrams of EDTA. He was in excellent health prior to starting his so-called “oral chelation” program and he had no other risk factors for heart disease. He thought this would prevent heart disease. Instead he became deficient in nutritional trace elements and he developed serious heart disease, very advanced for his age, while taking oral EDTA. Following a subsequent course mineral supplementation and 30 intravenous EDTA chelation treatments, his echocardiogram went back to normal and he became free of symptoms.

Chelated mineral supplements are sometimes marketed deceptively as “oral chelation.” Minerals in nutritional supplements can be bound with amino acids to improve absorption, because chelated minerals more closely resemble minerals found naturally in food. The label on those products may therefore contain the word “chelated.” That is not chelation therapy. It’s just the opposite—using chelation with nutritional amino acids to increase uptake of desired metals rather than removing unwanted elements. Most products marketed as “oral chelation” are nothing more than multiple vitamin and mineral supplements with excessively high prices. Those that contain significant amounts of EDTA are potentially dangerous.

Marketers of oral EDTA products point to the fact that the FDA approves its use in tiny amounts as a food preservative. Because EDTA binds tightly to trace metals, depriving bacteria of the essential nutrients they need to grow, small amounts are used to preserve food products such as mayonnaise and prevent rancidity of fats and oils. EDTA prevents lipid oxidation (rancidity) in foods by binding metallic catalysts of free radical production. However, the amount of EDTA approved for use in foods is tiny, much less than the amounts in so-called “oral chelation” products. It would be virtually impossible to eat enough mayonnaise on a daily basis to ingest any significant quantity of EDTA.

There’s been a recent upsurge of aggressive marketing and advertising for oral products that contain relatively large amounts of EDTA. The EDTA is sometimes added to garlic tablets or vitamin supplements. Marketers of oral EDTA products point to studies showing that urinary metal excretion increases after giving EDTA by mouth. It does, but they neglect to point out that the amount is very little.  And they ignore the substantial urinary losses of zinc, manganese and other essential nutritional elements that occur with continuous oral EDTA—10 to 15 times greater than the excretion of toxic elements such as lead. Lead is not the cause of cardiovascular disease and if EDTA is given daily it can eventually cause deficiencies.

EDTA by mouth has never been studied in a large group of people over a long enough time to determine the safe dose and extent of resulting trace element deficiencies. It’s therefore not possible to say that oral EDTA in doses currently being marketed is safe. We need reliable scientific data to determine how much and how often EDTA by mouth can safely be taken over the long term. When carefully reviewed, the many scientific references used by marketers to promote sales of oral EDTA products do not contain the kind of supportive evidence they claim. In fact, marketing literature for oral deceptively cites studies of intravenous chelation. There are no clinical studies showing benefit from oral EDTA.

Marketing of oral EDTA as chelation therapy for treatment or prevention of heart disease, vascular disease, atherosclerosis and other age-related diseases is misleading.

THE EXAGGERATION OF HEAVY METAL TOXICITY: Although mercury, arsenic and lead toxicity do occur, they do not are not contribute significantly to coronary heart disease or atherosclerosis. Laboratories used by chelation clinics often exaggerate toxicity, deceptively causing a high percentage of patients to appear toxic. EDTA does not significantly remove mercury from the body. DMSA by mouth does remove mercury and arsenic, as well as lead. If heavy metal detoxification is the goal, DMSA can be be purchased with a doctor's prescription and taken by mouth at home, without the need for clinic visits. EDTA in any form is not effective for mercury toxicity.

Most lead in the adult body is tightly bound deep within bones. EDTA does remove the small amount of lead that is free in body fluids, but lead soon seeps out of the bones causing a rebound in body fluids. Intermittent DMSA by mouth, taken Monday, Wednesday and Friday for several months can gradually reduce total body lead.

Copyright © 2012 Elmer M. Cranton, M.D., all rights reserved

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