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Chelation Therapy - Topic Overview

What is chelation therapy?

Chelation therapy is a chemical process in which a synthetic solution—EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid)—is injected into the bloodstream to remove heavy metals and/or minerals from the body. Chelation means "to grab" or "to bind." When EDTA is injected into the veins, it "grabs" heavy metals and minerals such as lead, mercury, copper, iron, arsenic, aluminum, and calcium and removes them from the body. Except as a treatment for lead poisoning, chelation therapy is controversial and unproved.

Chelation therapy is performed on an outpatient basis.

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What is chelation therapy used for?

Chelation is a very effective way to treat heavy-metal poisoning. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved prescription chelation therapy for the treatment of lead poisoning. Injected EDTA binds with the harmful metal and both are then eliminated from the body through the kidneys.

Some health professionals have also used chelation therapy to treat atherosclerosis and/or coronary artery disease, although there is not enough scientific evidence to prove that this treatment is effective. Some people believe that EDTA binds with calcium deposits (the part of plaque that obstructs the flow of blood to the heart) in the arteries, and then EDTA "cleans out" the calcium deposits from the arteries, reducing the risk of heart problems. Research results have been inconsistent. Chelation therapy should not replace lifestyle changes or standard treatments for coronary artery disease.

Some health professionals also suspect that EDTA may act as an antioxidant by removing metals that combine with LDL cholesterol, which can damage arteries. The theory is that when you remove metals that flow freely through arteries (such as copper or calcium), you may slow down diseases such as atherosclerosis. Research has not proved this theory. Some experts believe that EDTA could remove calcium from healthy bones, muscles, and other tissues, as well as from diseased arteries.

Many people report less pain from chronic inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, lupus, and scleroderma after chelation therapy. The theory is that EDTA acts as an antioxidant, which protects the body from inflammation and protects blood vessels. Again, this idea has not been proved by scientific research.

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