Oral chelation treatment controversy, is it effective? Does oral chelation work? Information on EDTA
April 3 2015 by
Ray Sahelian, M.D.

Chelation is a practice by doctors who engage in alternative medicine. Chelating agents are chemical compounds, injected or given orally, that latch on to metals in the body and carry them out through urine or feces. This form of treatment is commonly used for lead poisoning.

The concept of chelation is based on the observation that when a certain amino acid complex called EDTA (ethylene-diamine-tetra-acetic acid) comes in contact with certain positively charged metals and other substances such as lead, iron, mercury, copper, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and manganese, it binds them and then the complex is excreted through the kidneys. Chelation can occur by swallowing a medicine, called oral chelation, or by having a compound like EDTA injected in the blood stream in which case it is called intravenous chelation.

Chelation therapy is the process of removing from the body the undesirable ionic material by the infusion, or taking orally, of an organic compound which has suitable chelating properties. The practice of chelation therapy is quite controversial and there are many proponents who claim significant benefit while skeptics question the usefulness of this treatment.

Medical conditions and claims made
Proponents claim chelation can help with heart disease, particularly atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries, and for autism.

Circ Cardiovasc Qual Outcomes. 2014. Quality-of-life outcomes with a disodium EDTA chelation regimen for coronary disease: results from the trial to assess chelation therapy randomized trial. The National Institutes of Health funded Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy (TACT) randomized 1708 stable coronary disease patients aged .50 years who were .6 months post.myocardial infarction (2003.2010) to 40 infusions of a multicomponent EDTA chelation solution or placebo. Chelation reduced the primary composite end point of mortality, recurrent myocardial infarction, stroke, coronary revascularization, or hospitalization for angina. In a randomly selected subset of 911 patients, we prospectively collected a battery of quality-of-life (QOL) instruments at baseline and at 6, 12, and 24 months after randomization. The prespecified primary QOL measures were the Duke Activity Status Index (Table I in the Data Supplement) and the Medical Outcomes Study Short-Form 36 Mental Health Inventory-5. All comparisons were by intention to treat. Baseline clinical and QOL variables were well balanced in the 451 patients randomized to chelation and in the 460 patients randomized to placebo. The Duke Activity Status Index improved in both groups during the first 6 months of therapy, but we found no evidence for a treatment-related difference.There was no statistically significant evidence of a treatment-related difference in the Mental Health Inventory-5 during follow-up. None of the secondary QOL measures showed a consistent treatment-related difference. In stable, predominantly asymptomatic coronary disease patients with a history of myocardial infarction, EDTA chelation therapy did not have a detectable effect on QOL during 2 years of follow-up.

FDA warning letter 2010
In 2010, FDA warned several companies that their over-the-counter chelation products are unapproved drugs and it is not legal to make such claims. Some companies have asserted that their products treat or cure a variety of diseases by removing toxic metals from the body. Some of these claims include treating or curing: Alzheimer's disease, autism, cardiovascular diseases, Parkinson's disease, and other medical diseases.  The companies and the products include:
Artery Health Institute, LLC: Advanced Formula EDTA Oral Chelation
Cardio Renew, Inc.: CardioRenew and CardioRestore
Rhonda Henry: Cardio Chelate (H-870)
Hormonal Health, LLC: Kelatox Suppositories, METALDETECTOR Instant Toxic Metals Test
Longevity Plus: Beyond Chelation Improved, EndoKinase, Viral Defense, Wobenzym-N
Maxam Nutraceutics/Maxam Laboratories: PCA-Rx, PC3x, AFX, AD-Rx, AN-Rx, Anavone, AV-Rx, BioGuard, BSAID, CF-Rx, CreOcell, Dermatotropin, Endotropin, GTF-Rx, IM-Rx, Keto-Plex, Natural Passion, NG-Rx, NX-Rx, OR-Rx, Oxy-Charge, PN-Rx, Ultra-AV, Ultra Pure Yohimbe, Heavy Metal Screening Test
World Health Products: Detoxamin Oral, Detoxamin Suppositories, Metal Detector test kit

Chelation side effects, danger
There have been cases of fatalities due to EDTA chelation done by infusion. A drug that is sometimes used to treat lead poisoning — and is also believed by some parents to be effective against autism — caused the deaths of two children in 2005. One youngster was autistic; the other had lead poisoning. The deaths mark the first documented link between a chelation drug and cardiac arrest in children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Both children were treated with a product called Endrate. CDC officials are also looking into the 2003 death of a 53-year-old woman in Oregon who was given chelation therapy by a practitioner of natural medicine. The maker of Endrate is Hospira Inc. Endrate is approved for treating certain heart rhythm disturbances and high concentrations of calcium triggered by a bone cancer. Since at least 1978, federal health officials have warned against giving it to children with lead poisoning. Endrate’s calcium-removing abilities can dangerously disrupt the body’s chemistry. In August, 2005, a 5-year-old boy with autism died in Portersville, Pa., while receiving an infusion of Endrate in a physician’s office. A coroner later ruled that the treatment killed the boy. In February 2005, a 2-year-old girl with lead poisoning was treated with three chelating agents — one of them Endrate — and died at a hospital hours later from what an autopsy concluded was cardiac arrest due to depleted levels of calcium.

The term "EDTA" can mean either of these drugs: Disodium EDTA (edetate disodium, Endrate and generic versions); and Calcium disodium EDTA (also known as Calcium Disodium Versenate and Versenate).

Q. Will you be doing chelation therapy in the future?
   A. I don't have any plans at this time or the future to learn or practice chelation therapy.

Q. Does oral chelation (tablet form) actually live up to its claim of cleansing arteries of plaque build up? if it does how long does the process take?
   A. No opinion on oral chelation at this time.

Q.  My wife and I considering taking Angioprim oral chelator. My wife has been diagnosed with hardening of the arteries of the brain and is suffering memory loss. My problem is narrowing of the coronary arteries. We are wondering if you are familiar with Angioprim product and have done an evaluation, or, if you don't feel you can comment on this Angioprim product, would you care to discuss the chelation process.
   A. According to one website, Angioprim is a advanced chelation formula that aids in the removal of unwanted calcium and metals. The ingredients in Angioprim are amino acids Caysine (Proprietary Blend of synthetic amino acid), Lysine, and Cystine. We are not aware of any research done with Angioprim and hence cannot say that it works or does not work. However, the claims on the website seem to exceed the existing research, or lack of it. We cannot find any research on Angioprim published on Medline.

Q. I visit your website often and enjoy reading all the information you have there. I am interested in a product called EDTA. Would you have any information on this product or any opinions on it. It does not appear to be a main stream product.

Q. I've been very pleased with the products you have formulated. I see, though, that you don't offer EDTA, a chelator that is reported by some sources to help prevent blocked arteries. Any opinion on this?

Q. I subscribe to your newsletter. It is very informative and helpful in my efforts to maintain a naturally healthful lifestyle. I recently learned that EDTA (ethylenediamine tetra-acetic acid) chelation therapy is an effective means of lowering serum cholesterol. Would you have any comments on this very controversial claim?

Q. Great website. I was looking for info on EDTA chelation on your site and didn't see it listed. It is supposed to clean out plaque from arteries etc. ........Have any thoughts on it? And is it safe?
   A. We have not studied EDTA chelation therapy in any detail and do not have an informed opinion on this topic at this time.

Q. I enjoy reading your email advice; it seems nonpartial and balanced. I wonder if you have any information about EDTA oral chelation, an amino acid product?

Q. I've been reading about EDTA to treat heart disease, heavy metal poisoning, and general aging. I noticed you don't carry an oral version of EDTA. I was wondering what you thought of EDTA in general, and specifically what you think of oral EDTA vs. IV solution. Other than aging naturally, I don't have any of the other problems.

Q. I received an ad in the mail advertising oral chelation. It is from Health Resources in Hueytown, AL. Have you ever heard of such a thing?
   I have not.

I have a few Questions about the EDTA products. Why is no product registered at the FDA? Does it really work? Is it a cure for angina pectoris?
   I have not studied this form of treatment in enough detail to know whether it is effective for angina treatment.

Product news release received March 2010. We cannot find scientific support for some of the claims.
Source Naturals introduces a powerful new heavy metal detoxifier Chela-Detox, NEW! Phase II Detox Support!
• Helps the body cleanse itself from metals such as lead and inorganic mercury.
• Supports liver function by aiding in Phase II detoxification.
• Contributes to healthy cardio, immune and cognitive function.
• Contains EDTA, an amino acid highly regarded for chelating lead.
Heavy metals such as lead and mercury are increasingly found in our air, food, and water. Support the clearance of heavy metals from your body with Chela-Detox. Chela-Detox is a BioAligned formula that contains a complex array of targeted, effective ingredients— including EDTA —that have been shown in published scientific studies to promote the excretion of heavy metals from the body and to support the liver’s ability to eliminate many other toxins. Also from Source Naturals:
Cilantro Metal Detox.