Deciphering The FACTS From The FICTION
The following is a reproduction of the lecture notes from a lectured provided to other professional health care providers at 'Grand Rounds' at an Eastern Ontario hospital.
Dr. Stephen F. Jones B.Comm., N.D.
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine
Many doctors, when asked, will vehemently state that chelation therapy 'doesn't work', that there is 'no proof' of its value or that it is 'dangerous'. Hopefully this discussion and the reference materials provided will allow you to learn the facts and empower you to make health decisions based upon facts, not rhetoric. To do so, you must learn the history of chelation, its extensive medical study, the way in which it works and the inherent politics involved in medical opinions. After all, Mark Twain was noted as saying that "if the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail". Similarly, doctors often dismiss that with which they are not familiar, educated upon or have personal experience with, regardless of the facts and evidence. Patients should ask their doctors as to their personal familiarity with chelation and whether or not they have personally read any studies on chelation, in order to balance their opinions with others. Having such an open discussion may clarify the extent of your doctor's knowledge about chelation and better allow you to make an informed decision that is right for you.
SO LET'S TALK ABOUT THE FACTS.
Definition: Chelation (pronounced 'key -lay -shun') is a Latin translation meaning to 'bind onto' or to 'pinch'. It relates to the chemical process whereby one substance (in the case of chelation therapy this is a natural amino acid - not a drug) bonds onto another mineral - such as lead, mercury, arsenic, aluminum or calcium. This is a completely natural process which transpires thousands of times a day in your body to allow for life itself. Chelation therapy 'exploits' (if you will) this natural chemical process in order to rid the body of harmful (and toxic) mineral levels and to 'weaken' the mineral 'shell' that forms on the plaques inside your veins and arteries. It simply provides your body with amino acids known to bind onto specific metals and allows for the natural chemical process to occur.
- First used during the second world war, the British army developed the chelating agent 'British Anti-Lewesite' (BAL) to counter poison gas.
- Introduced in the United States in 1948 to treat industrial workers suffering from lead poisoning.
- U.S. Navy doctors endorsed chelation noting that those who received chelation and who also had atherosclerosis experienced less angina, better memory, better sight and an overall increase in vitality.
- Since the 1940s, over 400 controlled studies have examined the use of chelation therapy.
- More than 20 million treatments have been conducted world-wide since the 1940s with no fatalities - compare this with bypass surgery, stent implants etc.
- Chelation is the undisputed, only treatment (accepted and used by ALL doctors and hospitals) to treat lead poisoning.
- Chelation is only disputed (by conventional medical agencies) with regards to its use for cardiovascular disease - more so in North America (which has an estimated $ 5 billion dollar 'industry' in heart surgeries and pharmaceutical medications).
- Advocates now use chelation for Alzheimers, Parkinsons, Autism and general health promotion.
- Since the book Forty Something Forever: A Consumer's Guide To Chelation Therapy and Other Heart Savers - Harold and Arline Brecher ($6.95 at Amazon.com !!!), North Americans have becoming increasingly aware of the ability of chelation therapy to reverse the 'free radical damage' caused by environmental pollution, aging and dietary habits and have used the therapy as part of a longevity / preventative health strategy.
- Since the book 'Bypassing Bypass' by Dr. Elmer M. Cranton ($18.95 on Amazon.com), hundreds of thousands of patients have learned of and received chelation therapy to treat blocked coronary arteries, angina, impaired circulation, decreased exercise tolerance and a litany of circulatory or cardiovascular conditions (such as vascular dementia, peripheral vascular disease, impaired vision etc.).
How It 'Works':
By 'grabbing' or binding onto (ie. the definition of 'chelating') various minerals, the chelation treatment can 'pull' or remove these (toxic) minerals from the body in a safe fashion. The treatment allows for the minerals to be excreted through the urine, reducing the level of the minerals in the body and, hence, reducing or eliminating their ability to cause disease. The individual's health conditions benefit by this process in different ways.
1. Cardiovascular: Patients who suffer from 'atherosclerosis' (ie. a blockage and hardening of larger vessels - such as those of the 'coronary' arteries of the heart - those which are treated with bypass surgery), 'arteriosclerosis' (a blockage and hardening of smaller vessels - such as those in peripheral vessels) and 'coronary artery disease' are prime candidates for chelation. While the way in which it works is complicated and an area of some discussion, chelation can be envisioned as working by 'pulling out' the calcium which lies in the hard shell that forms over the famous plaques that form in blood vessels. By removing the mineral support to this hard shell, the 'shell' is broken down and the underlying deposits caused by cholesterol (etc.) become exposed and can then be dissolved and the blockages removed.
In reality, the main way chelation works is by reversing the 'free radical' formations which damage the vessels in the first place, leaving them susceptible to accumulations of fatty deposits. This process is described in the key book on chelation therapy for heart disease, that being 'Bypassing Bypass' by Dr. Elmer M. Cranton ($18.95 on Amazon.com). By reversing the free radical damage and removing the hard shell, the vessels not only become unblocked, they regain their ability to flex and expand, that is to say they loose the hard, rigid status. This lead to the ability of the vessels to respond to exertion, increases circulation, decreases spasms and repairs damage to the vessel linings themselves.
2. Alzheimer's, Parkinsons, Senile Dementia: Summarizing a detailed discussion, chelation works for these condition in different ways. First, it binds onto and removes minerals known to be causative in Alzheimer's and suspected in Parkinson's. As illustration, aluminum has been associated with directly causing Alzheimer's since the 1980s. If one removes the aluminum, future damage is prevented and existing damage caused by the minerals is repaired. With Senile Dementia and Vascular Dementia, chelation serves to increase blood flow through ALL vessels in the body (not just the heart). By increasing circulation to the brain, removal of toxic materials and providing repair to free radical damage (to brain tissue), chelation works at a variety of levels.
3. Cancer: While this is a gross simplification, several cancers are linked to damage to cells caused by toxic metal accumulations and free radical damage. These causative factors trigger a process whereby the immune system's 'oncogenes' are not able to control the development of cancerous cells. Chelation removes the offending toxic materials and provides aggressive 'anti-oxidant' support to free radical damaged tissue. Years of clinical data and case reports (available through the American College for the Advancement of Medicine) reveal profound results in cancer patients treated with chelation. Of course, these patients should first be screened for the presence of heavy metals etc.
4. Arthritis: Much in the way that chelation reverses toxic metal accumulations in cancer and heart disease patients, numerous studies show marked improvements in arthritis patients after chelation therapy. A reduction in the accumulated toxic metal crystals serves to reduce their ability to promote inflammatory responses in the arthritic joints. Likewise, reducing free radical damage serves to decrease inflammatory responses throughout the body, including sites of arthritis.
5. Autism: While the media has been sensational of late discussing an autistic child said to be harmed by chelation therapy, the media failed to report that this 'diagnosis' was the opinion of a medical doctor. No pathological or clinical 'proof' supported this diagnosis. Ironically, the M.D. believed that the chelation was pulling the toxic metals out of the child's body, but stated that it was doing so too fast !- acknowledging the ability of chelation to remove toxic metals and that the child did, indeed, have a toxic level of 'heavy metals'.
The key point is that many autistic patients have been found to have substantially elevated levels of mercury, lead and other heavy metals and chelation will remove these. Much clinical evidence indicates that the patients show rapid improvements upon removal of these toxic metals. As 'heavy metals' are known to be neurotoxic, removal of them in a developmentally delayed or impaired individual serves a logical purpose.
A Summary Of The Many Actions of EDTA Chelation:
The following are taken from Dr. Elmer Cranton's book 'Bypassing Bypass' and are a concise overview of the benefits of EDTA chelation.
- Free Radical Control: As discussed, free radicals cause cell destruction via a process called 'lipid oxidation'. Lipid oxidation is caused by metal 'ions' being inserted into the cell membranes. Chelation removes the ions that cause the damage, allowing for cell repair.
- Re-established normal 'prostaglandin' hormone balance: Prostaglandins are hormones involved in vessel spasms, clot formation and arthritis. There must be a constant balance between the different types of prostaglandins. 'Lipid oxidation' caused by free radical exposure promotes too much of the prostaglandins which form clots, cause spasms in vessels etc. Chelation corrects the 'lipid oxidation' and hence reduces the prostaglandins that cause problems.
- Protects Blood Platelets: Platelets are the blood cells which clot together to stop bleeding. They also cause vessels to spasm by producing a substance called 'thromboxane'. When platelettes come into contact with EDTA, they reduce their tendency to stick together. Patients with impaired circulation, diabetes, vascular dementia (etc. etc.) will, accordingly, have greater blood flow and not require blood 'thinners' (which cause a litany of other side effects).
- Improves Energy Production Inside Cells: Avoiding a biology lecture, every cell has a 'furnace' that produces energy required for the cell to survive. EDTA stabilizes the membranes of this 'furnace' (called the mitochondria), allowing for increased energy metabolism. This allows for greater cell function, survival and exertion.
- Improves Tissue Flexibility: As we age, are exposed to toxins (smoking, alcohol, chemicals, toxic 'heavy metals' etc.) the cells in our tissues developing 'cross-links' between large protein molecules. This leaves the tissue ridged, with a loss of flexibility and results in wrinkles and sagging of the skin. Chelation has shown an ability to break these cross-links, resulting in a reduction of 'age spots', a healthier colour to the skin and a more youthful appearance.
What Do The Critics Say ??
Well, the answer here is that the 'critics' are plentiful. Unfortunately the term 'critic' usually refers to experts in a field. Most who criticize chelation attack its role and use in the treatment of heart disease. No one debates its ability to remove toxic metals but, ironically, question its use in conditions (such as Alzheimer's) known to be caused by toxic metal accumulations. These very same 'experts' rarely demonstrate a personal awareness of the existing research / evidence and usually refer to suspicious trials in stating that chelation has 'no benefit'. What they state is that no trial evidence exist to support the benefits of chelation. They state this opinion despite 20 million treatments, over 400 trials and extensive clinical data.
As illustration, most cardiologists and doctors who dismiss chelation in the treatment of angina, blocked coronary arteries, atherosclerosis and arteriosclerosis (etc.) refer to a 1963 study by Dr.s Kitchell and Meltzer published in the American Journal of Cardiology (11; 501-506). In this study the authors reversed their previous study findings which reported significant benefits from chelation in the treatment of heart disease. They reported that chelation offered "no benefit" in treating heart disease patients and this opinion is the 'gold standard' brought up by modern day chelation critics. The problem is that the actual results of this 1963 study did NOT agree with their stated conclusion of "no benefit". In fact, review of the data by several researchers showed that 64% of their patients had a reduction of symptoms after only 20 treatments (!) and 46% were still showing improvements 18 months later. Doesn't seem to equate to the opinion of "no benefit" does it??? Interestingly, at the time of this new study, Dr. Kitchell was on the payroll of the company developing the 'Internal Mammary Artery Bypass', the forerunner to the current bypass surgery procedure.
What Do The Critics NOT Say or Mention ??
Again, there has been over 400 studies on chelation therapy. Not one regarding heart disease, when the actual data is reviewed (ie. instead of the author's conclusions), shows anything but indications of benefits !!!! The American College for Advancement in Medicine (A.C.A.M.) has reviewed all trial evidence and recorded that more than 75% of patients treated with chelation for cardiovascular symptoms have shown significant improvements and over 90% have benefited when they received 35 or more treatments and followed diet, exercise and lifestyle advice. These are the facts, they are derived from medical research and the data is readily accessible from A.C.A.M. and in Dr. Elmer Cranton's book "Bypassing Bypass".
As but one small illustration of this fact consider the work of Dr.s Chappell M.D. and Stahl P.hd (published in the Journal for The Advancement in Medicine, 1994;7). These doctors reviewed 19 studies on the use of chelation on 22,765 patients. This is a review of study on a large number of patients. They found that these 19 medical studies all showed measurable and sustainable improvements in blood circulation (determined by before and after treatment medical tests) in 88% of the patients treated !!
Now, statistics that the 'critics' don't pass on are equally interesting. Consider the following:
- A 10 year study by the American National Institute of Health compared survival rates of those who had bypass surgery and those who did nothing to treat their heart disease. The results showed those who received the risky bypass (with noteworthy mortality from the operation itself) were NO MORE LIKELY TO LIVE LONGER, BE HEALTHIER OR HAVE FEWER HEART SYMPTOMS THAN THOSE WHO DID ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.
- The American Journal of Cardiology (June 15, 1998;81(12):1393-1399) reported that in a 22 year follow-up study of bypass patients, bypass offered "neither survival nor symptomatic benefits".
Why is this important. Well, because the 'critics' say chelation doesn't have enough 'evidence' to support its use, despite the extensive data. They don't, however, say the same when the evidence clearly questions the value or use of bypass. Stent implants have even less success (than bypass) and both have significant mortality and post-operative symptoms such as depression, increased chest pain etc. If we truly practiced 'evidence based medicine' (as is the stated intention of conventional medicine), then chelation's extensive clinical and trial evidence should be treated with the same standards as surgical and pharmaceutical options.
THEY ARE NOT.
Other Studies and Conditions Treated - The Real Facts
- Between 1964 and 1968 several studies were published on the use of chelation in the treatment of diabetic circulatory diseases. EVERY trial demonstrated improved circulation in both the impaired vessels in the legs of the diabetic patients as well as the arteries and veins throughout their bodies. Citations can be found in the journals Angiology (1964, 15:379-394) and Journal of the American Geriatric Society (1966;14:272-294).
- A study of patients with peripheral vascular disease (impaired circulation in the peripheral limbs - mainly legs and some arms), showed that 91% had a 'marked improvement' after chelation therapy - Medical Hypothesis (1988;27:41-49).
- Dr. J. Bjorksten published a summary of studies on chelation and concluded that chelation therapy could increase the lifespan of man by 12% (Rejuvenation 1980;8:59-66).
- Dr.s McDonagh, Rudolph and Cheraskin published study on patients with impaired cerebral vascular arterial blood flow (those with vascular dementia, Alzheimer's etc.). Their study revealed that 88% of the patients showed objective (ie. measured by medical testing) improvements in cerebrovascular blood flow (Journal of Holistic Medicine, 1982; 4 (1):21-23).
- Dr. Schettler performed a study on EDTA chelation for the drug company Tiemann Pharmaceuticals (who make a medication used to prevent platelette aggregation - Fludilat). It showed that the patients who received chelation increased their walking distance by 250% while the drug caused a 64% increase. When reviewing these results, the company then dropped several of the chelation patients from the study's data and concluded that chelation offered "no benefit" - sound familiar???
- Dr. Cranton and Blumer published a remarkable study on the possible preventative role of chelation in cancer development. They provided chelation to patients who lived beside a highway and who were exposed to lead-based exhaust fumes and then followed them and their neighbours for 18 years. Only one of the chelated patients died of cancer while 30 of the 172 non-chelated patients studied died (Journal of Advancement in Medicine 1989;2(1,2):183-188). This translates into a 90% reduction in cancer mortality !!!!
Perhaps this is enough !!!
The point is that ample, well controlled and 'peer-reviewed' data exists demonstrating the facts behind chelation. Patients, perhaps unfortunately, need to inform themselves, as many medical doctors simply have no education, no personal experience and no familiarity with the medical journal facts behind chelation.
Where are we now??? In the United States, the National Institute of Health has provided $30,000,000.00 to conduct a 'definitive' study on chelation (for heart disease only……..) called the 'Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy' (TACT). This is on-going and results are expected in a few years. Expect more suspicious interpretation of data, but remain optimistic !!!
So, YOU Be The Doctor and INFORM YOURSELF
- www.millenniumhealthcentre.com - gives links to the most important chelation websites - one stop search !!
- www.acam.org - the website for the American College For Advancement In Medicine.
- www.icimed.com - website for The International College of Integrative Medicine.
- www.autismanswer.com - website on the role of chelation in the treatment of autism.
- "Bypassing Bypass" - Dr. Elmer Cranton M.D.
- "The Scientific Basis of EDTA Chelation Therapy" - Halstead and Rozema.
- "Forty Something Forever: A Consumer's Guide To Chelation Therapy and Other Heart Savers - Harold and Arline Brecher.