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What is Chelation?

The Truth About Chelation Therapy  -  Part 2

If EDTA Chelation Therapy is so Good,
Why Is It Not More Widely Accepted?

 James P. Carter, MD, PhD

Dr. Carter is Professor and Head, Nutrition Section, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, New Orleans, Louisiana.


The Truth About Chelation Therapy  - Part 2

Position Paper on EDTA Chelation Therapy



Excerpt: Reprinted from the American College for Advancement in Medicine's Position Paper on EDTA Chelation Therapy

This Position Paper addresses and elaborates on questions pertaining to physician administration of EDTA chelation therapy in accordance with ACAM’s protocol. Chelation therapy has been safely and effectively utilized by physicians throughout the nation and overa million patients have received demonstrable benefit from it.




The American College for Advancement in Medicine ("ACAM") was founded in 1973 as a non-profit corporation and is presently comprised of approximately 750 licensed physicians, many of whom are engaged in the treatment of, or research in, occlusive vascular disease and its related fields. Member physicians study and use innovative and advanced cardiovascular therapies that involve, inter alia, the early detection and identification of risk factors in patients and intensive education in modifying the individual patient's lifestyle to alter such risk factors.

Among the purposes of ACAM are to advance support for and to further research in the application of EDTA chelation therapy and other sound innovative therapies for occlusive vascular disease and degenerative diseases associated with aging. As a professional organization, ACAM presents biannual educational seminars to its membership.

It is ACAM’s position, as more fully explained in the discussion that ensues, that chelation therapy is a valid and proper course of treatment, based upon scientific rationale, supported by many published clinical studies, and consistent with sound medical practice.

Restricting its use by qualified physicians would amount to a wholly unneeded restraint upon the practice of medicine that would adversely affect the standard of medical care available to patients. Such restriction would be contrary to law and a disservice to the public.




Ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid ("EDTA") is a man-made amino acid first used in the 1940’s for treatment of heavy metal poisoning. EDTA chelation therapy is widely recognized as effective for that use as well as certain others, including emergency treatment of hypercalcemia and the control of ventricular arrhythmias associated with digitalis toxicity. Studies by the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council in the late 1960’s indicated that EDTA chelation therapy was considered possibly effective in the treatment of occlusive vascular disorders caused by arteriosclerosis.

Clinical experience with EDTA chelation therapy has convinced substantial numbers of licensed physicians in North America that it is a safe and effective treatment for atherosclerotic vascular disease, as it consistently improves blood flow and relieves symptoms associated with the disease in greater than 80% of the patients treated. As members of the medical profession are generally aware, the pathogenesis of atherosclerotic disease is extraordinarily complex. The scientific principles underlying the efficacy of EDTA chelation therapy in impeding each step of the disease process are beyond the scope of this position paper, but they are elaborated upon in the many published clinical studies and research papers available.

In its simplest terms, the rationale for its efficacy is that EDTA chelation therapy, in binding ionic metal catalysts and removing them from the body, reduces subsequent abnormal production of oxygen free radical reactive molecules and molecular fragments which react destructively with other molecules. See, E. M. Cranton, J. P. Frackelton, Free Radical Pathology in Age-Associated Diseases: Treatment with EDTA Chelation, Nutrition, and Antioxidants, Journal of Advancement in Medicine, Vol. 2, Nos. 1, 2, Spring/Summer, 1989.

There is now widespread agreement that EDTA chelation therapy removes metallic catalysts which cause excessive oxygen free radical proliferation, thereby reducing pathological lipid peroxidation of cell membranes, DNA, enzyme systems and lipoproteins and allowing the body’s natural healing mechanisms to halt and often reverse the disease process.

Chelation therapy is considered by the licensed physicians who utilize it to be an effective first step alternative to surgical treatment for atherosclerotic vascular disease in most cases. In the instances where a licensed physician believes that bypass surgery or the interventional cardiac catheterization techniques of thrombolysis and balloon angioplasty are more appropriate, he or she will refer those patients out. These alternatives to chelation therapy though are not without their respective detractors and attendant risks.In September 1978 the Office of Technology Assessment ("OTA"), a branch of the United States Congress, aided by an advisory board composed of leading medical and university school faculty, published a report entitled "Assessing the Efficacy and Safety of Medical Technologies". One portion of that report discussed the efficacy and safety of surgery for coronary artery disease, concluding as follows:

Coronary artery bypass surgery is based on a scientific rationale and may be of measurable benefit to some patients. It is usually performed for angina pectoris and appears to give substantial relief from symptoms, but the extent to which this relief is an effect of surgery is not known. Limited studies suggest that coronary bypass surgery improves life expectancy significantly for only a small number of patients, with a particular type of coronary artery disease. Controlled studies have shown no improvement in life expectancy for patients studied.

The importance of this analysis is its recognition, though over 70,000 operations were performed in 1977, that the benefits of such surgery have yet to be demonstrated.

A more recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine (March 22, 1984) reported upon myocardial infarction and mortality in the coronary artery surgery study (CASS) randomized trial, and summarized as follows in the Abstract:

ABSTRACT: There were no statistically significant differences in the survival rate or in the myocardial infarction rate between subgroups of patients randomly assigned to medical and to surgical therapy when they were analyzed according to initial group assignment, number of diseased vessels, or ejection fraction. Therefore, as compared with medical therapy, coronary bypass surgery appears neither to prolong life nor to prevent myocardial infarction in patients who have mild angina or who are asymptomatic after infarction in the five-year period after coronary angiography.

The necessity of heart surgery and the scheduling of such surgery has undergone substantial criticism of late by many in the medical community. Despite this criticism, in 1981 an estimated 110,000 patients underwent bypass surgery. By 1983 the annual number of operations had increased to 191,000, and by 1989 the number had soared to over 368,000.

As stated by Dr. Thomas A. Preston, professor of cardiology at the University of Washington School of Medicine and chief of cardiology at Pacific Medical Center:

[Coronary-bypass surgery] is heralded by the popular press, aggrandized by our profession, and actively sought by the consuming public.

It is the epitome of modern medical technology. Yet, as it is now practiced, its net effect on the nation’s health is probably negative.

The operation does not cure patients, it is scandalously overused, and its high cost drains resources from other important areas of need.

Fully half of the bypass operations performed in the United States are unnecessary. A decade of scientific study has shown that except in certain well-defined situations, bypass surgery does not save lives or even prevent heart attacks: Among patients who suffer from coronary-artery disease, those who are treated without surgery enjoy the same survival rates as those who undergo open-heart surgery.

(Preston TA: Marketing an operation: Coronary artery bypass surgery. J Holistic Med 1985;7(1):8-15., MD Magazine, Feb. 1995.)

In an article entitled "The Appropriateness of Performing Coronary Artery By-Pass Surgery", published by the American Medical Association in JAMA 1988, 260:505-509, the authors report the results of a randomized study conducted to determine the level of judiciousness currently being applied by physicians in performing coronary artery bypass surgery. The authors report that only fifty-six percent (56%) of the surgeries were performed for appropriate reasons. As stated in the abstract to this article, "eliminating the performance of [such] inappropriate procedures may lead to reductions in health care expenditures or to improved patient outcomes."

Balloon angioplasty is an alternative to venous grafting which is enjoying increased popularity among vascular surgeons. Experience with this technique, though, has shown that serious complications, including permanent renal failure, occur in up to 8% of cases and that technical failure rates for iliac and femoral angioplasties occur in up to 50% of cases. Moreover, it must be remembered that both this technique and venous grafting are very point specific, in distinct contrast to chelation therapy, which benefits the entire vascular system.

Furthermore, the costs associated with the various treatment modalities are widely disparate. A typical bypass surgery costs the patient in excess of $30,000.00, the usual balloon angioplasty over $12,000.00, and an average course of chelation treatments $3,000.00 to $5,000.00, including ancillary costs.

© American College for Advancement in Medicine

This excerpt provided as a public service by the Coyle Chelation Clinic

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