When medical researchers first investigated the phenomenon known as hardening of the arteries (closely related to atherosclerosis ), they discovered that the damaged, brittle vessels found in people with heart disease were lined with calcium deposits. Naturally, this finding inspired the notion that calcium deposits were the cause of the problem.
Some early researchers investigated the possible therapeutic effect of removing such deposits. However, subsequent research indicated that the calcium deposits of atherosclerosis were a symptom rather than a cause, and mainstream interest turned elsewhere. Certain physicians nonetheless maintained an interest in removing calcium; thus chelation therapy was born.
Chelation therapy for heart disease consists of intravenous infusions of a chemical called EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid). This synthetic substance is used in conventional medicine to remove heavy metals, such as lead, from the body, but it also has an effect on calcium, which is why it came into use in chelation therapy.
Proponents claim that EDTA chelation is an effective alternative to heart surgery, and that it also offers many other health benefits. To support this, they cite numerous anecdotes of cures apparently brought about by its use. However, anecdotes cannot possibly prove a treatment effective. (For a detailed explanation of why this is the case, see Why Does This Database Rely on Double-blind Studies? ) Only double-blind, placebo-controlled trials can do so, and thus far such studies have failed to find chelation therapy effective.
Not only does it appear to be ineffective, EDTA chelation therapy may present some safety risks. This treatment is generally given in a series of 10 to 30 sessions. If the practitioner fails to take proper precautions, severe adverse consequences, such as kidney damage, may result. While it appears to be the case that properly performed chelation therapy is unlikely to cause harm, we do not see any justification for using such an invasive method, in the absence of evidence that it will help.
- Reviewer: EBSCO CAM Review Board
- Review Date: 08/2013 -
- Update Date: 08/22/2013 -