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Cardiovascular Disease

Chelation Therapy as a treatment for Heavy Metal Detoxification

The word chelation comes from the Greek word "chele" meaning claw. Chelating agents work by latching onto heavy metals in a claw-like fashion, removing them from tissues, so that they can be filtered into the urine or excreted in the stool. The most common chelating agent is Ethylene Diamine Tetra-acetic Acid (EDTA). Chelation therapy is the FDA-approved treatment for heavy metal poisoning

There are many chelating agents

  • EDTA (Sodium (Na) and calcium (Ca), DMPS, DMSA, d-penicillamine, BAL, desferoxamine
  • EDTA is the most commonly used
  • EDTA’s main action is to chelate or bind minerals to itself.
    • The EDTA: metal complexes are then excreted from the body
    • EDTA very good for removing lead, nickel, cadmium, arsenic and beryllium from the body
  • Other chelating Agents & What They Chelate (remove) Best
    • Penicillamine – Copper and aluminum
    • DMPS, DMSA – Mercury
    • Desferoxamine – Excess Iron 

Toxic Heavy Metal Effects in the Body

  • Linked to free radical activity
    • Heavy metals are known to accelerate free radical activity
    • Heavy metals are widely used as catalysts in chemical processes to enhance free radical production
      • (Racek J, Eiselt J, Opatrny K Jr. Transitional elements and free radicals. Cas Lek Cesk. 2002 Aug 2;141(15):479-82.)
    • Suppress immune system
      • Toxic heavy metals suppress and/or dysregulate immune system by binding to receptor sites
      • Cause decreased antibody responses
      • Undesirable “upregulation” of immune system leading to auto-immune diseases
      • Cadmium and mercury downregulate B lymphocytes
      • Mercury and lead decrease T cell function
        • (Daum JR et al (1993) Immunotoxicology of cadmium and mercury on B-lymphocytes-Int J Immunopharmacol. Apr;15(3):383-94.)
      • Interfere with normal enzyme function
        • Every chemical reaction in the body occurs by enzymes
        • Enzyme activity is greatest during youth & decreases with aging
        • Enzyme activity decreases because enzymes become “gummed up” with heavy metal toxins
        • Many enzymes require a vitamin and a mineral cofactor in order to function
        • Proenzyme + vitamin, mineral à active enzyme
        • Proenzyme + vitamin, toxic heavy metal à inactive enzyme
        • Chelation decreases toxic heavy metals increasing active enzymes
      • Affect hormones
        • Heavy metals suppress and/or dysregulate hormone balance by binding to receptor sites, particularly in hypothalamus leading to Improper hormone function
        • Lead, mercury and cadmium can occupy place of Iodine in thyroid hormones
      • Affect brain function
        • Heavy metals, particularly aluminum and mercury accumulate in the brain & can adversely affect brain function
        • Heavy metals commonly found in autistic children
          • “Detoxification of mercury and other heavy metals by … chelation can have marked benefit (in autism)” ( Kidd, P. Autism, an extreme challenge to integrative medicine. Part 2: Medical management. Altern Med Rev. 2002 Dec;7(6):472-99.) 
  • Accumulate in the myocardium (heart muscle)
    • Mercury and antimony are >10,000 x in myocardial tissue of pts with IDCM
    • Patients with secondarycardiac dysfunction have mild increase (5 times) of myocardialtoxic metals
      • (Frustaci A. et al. Marked elevation of myocardial trace elements in idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy comapred to normal systolic function.  J Am Coll Cardiol. 2000 Mar 1; 35 (3): 818-20.)

Heavy Metal Poisoning vs. Toxicity

  • Conventional medicine sees the problem as white or black – the patient either has heavy metal poisoning or not
  • Complementary doctors see heavy metals as a spectrum – shades of gray
  • Patients with toxicity (yet not true poisoning) are often symptomatic and improve with treatment 


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Common Heavy Metals and Diagnosis of Toxicity

There are several test for measuring heavy metals (none are perfect)
  • Common Toxic Heavy Metals • Lead • Very common from paints, soil, water pipes • Linked to high blood pressure • ½ life in bone is 20-30 years • Affects nervous, cardiovascular, renal and many other systems • EDTA Chelation Therapy is the treatment of choice for lead poisoning (Henretig F.M. (2006). "Lead" in Goldfrank, LR. Goldfrank's Toxicologic Emergencies, 8th edition. McGraw-Hill Professional)
  • Mercury • Typically found in the 3 F’s • Fish (Seafood) • Fillings (dental “silver” amalgam) • Flu shots (and other vaccinations) • Causes immune system depression • Among the most toxic non-radioactive heavy metals on the planet
  • Cadmium • Very common in cigarette smoke (including second-hand smoke) • Depresses immune system • Toxic to bone and kidneys • Endocrine interruptor - (Jarup L, Akesson A. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2009 Aug 1;238(3):201-8.)
  • Aluminum • Found in aluminum foil, aluminum cookware and anti-perspirants • Associated with learning and behavior problems in children • Alzheimer’s Disease and memory loss in adults • Impairs mitochondrial function - (Kumar V et al. Arch Toxicol. 2009 Nov;83(11):965-78.)
  • Blood tests – Best for ACUTE conditions (like poisonings)
    – not good for chronic accumulation. They are usually done by conventional doctors.
    – Heavy metals are found predominantly inside the cells
    – Need to measure intracellular elements (packed RBCs)
    More accurate test, but not available for all toxic elements and are relatively expensive
  • Urine tests– Can be done with and without a provocative agent
    – Better indicator of actual body burden
    – Useful in following patients as they receive Chelation Therapy
  • Stool tests – Most of EDTA excreted in stool
    – Poor patient compliance
  • Solid tissues – Bone (Accurate, but difficult and painful to obtain)
    – Skin (Patients don’t want biopsies taken)
    – Hair • Not terribly accurate tests for heavy metal toxins  Advantages
    • Inexpensive • Simple test to perform • Easy to understand • Disadvantages • Only detects what the body is able to excrete spontaneously • May not reflect actual body burden

General health can be improved by a course of chelation therapy

  • Patients begin by doing a screening test to determine levels of toxic heavy metals in their body
  • Depending on results, a series of chelation treatments are ordered by their physician
  • As toxic metals are removed, energy and general health often improve as enzyme function is restored along with other beneficial effects (hormones, immune function, etc.)
  • Urine heavy metal tests are repeated at regular intervals to determine when therapy and removal of toxins is complete

Chelation therapy can serve as an important and critical aspect of general detoxification from the unavoidable accumulation of toxins that comes as a result of living in a polluted world


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