Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid

Chelation therapy is a treatment that involves repeated intravenous (IV) administration of a chemical solution of ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, or EDTA. It is used to treat acute and chronic lead poisoning by pulling toxins (including heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, and mercury) from the bloodstream. The word "chelate" comes from the Greek root chele, which means "to claw." EDTA has a claw-like molecular structure that binds to heavy metals and other toxins.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved EDTA chelation therapy as a treatment for lead and heavy metal poisoning. It is also used as an emergency treatment for hypercalcemia (excessive calcium levels) and the control of ventricular arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) associated with digitalis toxicity.

Studies by the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council in the late 1960s suggested that EDTA might be effective in the treatment of arteriosclerosis (blocked arteries). However, most well-designed studies have found that EDTA is not effective for heart disease. In fact, many medical organizations, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Heart Association (AHA), and the American College of Cardiology (ACC), have publicly criticized and denounced the practice of EDTA chelation therapy for heart disease.

Proponents of chelation therapy for heart disease claim that EDTA, combined with oral vitamins and minerals, helps dissolve plaques and mineral deposits associated with atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Most reports about using chelation therapy for heart disease have been based on case studies and a few animal studies that may not apply to people. Also, several large-scale clinical trials published in peer-reviewed journals have found that EDTA chelation therapy is no better than placebo in improving symptoms of heart disease. Some medical experts note that theories about why chelation might help treat atherosclerosis depend on an outdated understanding of how heart disease develops. Finally, and probably most importantly, the safety of EDTA chelation therapy for people with heart disease is not known.

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Review Date: 8/5/2015  

Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by the A.D.A.M Editorial team.

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