Chelation: Good for Your Heart?

Filed Under: Heart Health
Last Reviewed 04/16/2014

While intravenous chelation (EDTA) has been FDA approved and accepted as a treatment for lead poisoning, it is less clear whether this method is effective for cardiovascular problems.

High lead levels have been implicated in both heart disease and high blood pressure levels, and chelation proponents suggest the treatment probably works by reducing the effects of oxidative stress, and may even remove calcium from arterial plaques. Detractors are quick to point out the lack of hard science to support its use.

During his cardiology fellowship in the 1970’s, Dr. Sinatra was on the same page as detractors.

Steeped in his traditional cardiology training, Dr. Sinatra viewed the lack of double-blind, placebo-controlled studies as a negative to recommending chelation for his patients. Nonetheless, in 1997, there were more than 800,000 patient visits for chelation, so its use had become more widespread.

In response to the beneficial claims of chelation’s advocates (not to mention the administrators who were benefiting financially), a few academics performed a series randomized clinical trials on about 300 people. They found no evidence that chelation was a better treatment for coronary artery disease than placebo. Advocates, of course, repudiated their results, and the debate rages on to this day.

To date, we still lack conclusive evidence, but the seemingly good news is that, in 2008, the National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute launched the first large-scale, multi-centered study into the safety and effectiveness of chelation.

More than 100 medical centers, clinics, and doctors’ offices recruited 2.372 people, aged 50+, with a history of heart attack to participate in the Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy (TACT). The researchers are comparing chelation with high-dose vitamin therapy, or a combination of both. They will be evaluating subjects for all-cause mortality, heart attack and stroke, hospitalization for angina, and bypass surgery. 

However, no good deed goes unpunished. Turns out, some detractors have demanded the study be halted, citing issues from expense and politics, to informed consent and safety. As a result, researchers have stopped accruing new study subjects. But the participants they do have will be followed through 2011. We should see their results in 2012.

When they become available, I’m sure that Dr. Sinatra will be reporting them to you in his Heart, Heath, and Nutrition newsletter, along with his take on their findings and conclusions.

For more information on alternative therapies for cardiovascular problems, such as chelation therapy, visit Dr. Sinatra’s Web site.

DISCLAIMER: The content of is offered on an informational basis only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health provider before making any adjustment to a medication or treatment you are currently using, and/or starting any new medication or treatment. All recommendations are "generally informational" and not specifically applicable to any individual's medical problems, concerns and/or needs.

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