Chelation: Cardiology Terminology

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Filed Under: Heart Health
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

Chelation: Cardiology Terminology

I'm often asked by my cardiac patients whether or not chelation therapy has any merit in treating cardiovascular problems.

The word “chelate” is derived from the Greek word chele, which means “to claw,” and refers to the chemical structure of the agent used in the process.

In the traditional sense, chelation typically involves the intravenous (“IV”) administration of a man-made amino acid called EDTA (ethylene diamine tetra-acetic acid), an agent valued for its “clawing-out” or drawing-out properties.

EDTA was first employed in an IV solution to treat lead poisoning back in 1948, given to US Navy sailors sickened after applying lead-based paints to ships. As the story goes, some of those sailors reported that their cardiovascular health also improved after the chelation treatments.

Some bright folks reasoned that, if chelation is good for removing lead, how about all the other toxic heavy metals we're exposed to? As a result, chelation is now offered for the detoxification of a variety of metals, including cadmium and mercury—as well as lead.

Intravenous chelation affects the body almost immediately, because 100 percent of the chelation dose is absorbed. Eventually, proponents of chelation developed oral forms of administration.

With oral dosing, only about three percent of the chelating agent is actually absorbed, and benefits comparable to the IV treatments may take several weeks or months to achieve.

So many of mypatients were asking me about chelation, that I decided to undergo five IV chelation sessions myself so I could speak to them from first-hand experience. Even though I had no heart disease on CT scan, I was hoping it might improve my high mercury level.

While we won’t know if my body received any benefits other than some possible chelating and detoxification of heavy metals, I did notice that I was very fatigued the night of and day after my sessions.

Whether or not chelation is an appropriate treatment intervention for cardiovascular problems remains controversial.

(By the way, the "chelation" in chelation therapy isn't related to the "chelate" in mineral chelates. These are supplements that have a mineral bound to an amino acid or salt.)

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