Proponents of alternative medicine advertised chelation therapy in the late 1950s as a means of removing calcium from the hardened residue called atherosclerotic plaque. The original explanation for how it worked was based on the total misunderstanding of the chemical nature of the plaque and how the arteries become clogged. The initial claim was that a chemical compound called ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid (EDTA) could bind to calcium in a reaction called chelation. Chelation was said to work because the formation of arterial plaque depended on the calcium. The EDTA was said to remove this calcium and cause the arterial plaque to disintegrate. The mechanism was likened to that of a “roto rooter” cleaning a water pipe.

Chelation therapy involved intravenous infusion of a solution of EDTA several times a week. Early chelation therapists proposed that EDTA would bind the calcium in the arterial plaque and cause it to disintegrate. In reality, the calcium is present in plaque as a contaminant and plays no role in its structural integrity. Furthermore, the plaque containing the calcium is present inside the cells of the arterial walls and cannot be reached by the infused EDTA.

The American College of Advancement in Medicine has an approved protocol for EDTA chelation. Treatment is by intravenous infusion of about 1,000 milliliters of a solution containing fructose, heparin, EDTA, lidocaine, B complex vitamins, magnesium chloride and vitamin C. The solution is infused over four hours, 1 to 3 times a week. The initial series is about thirty infusions with the opportunity of additional treatments later on. Adjunctive therapy consists of doses of oral vitamin C, vitamin E, mineral supplements and other vitamins. Current charges are in the range of $100 per infusion.

Over the years, as a result of the fact there was no evidence to support this theory, chelationists changed their “tune.” They now claimed that the action of EDTA was by preventing formation in the body of strong oxidizing agents called “free radicals.” They based this concept on reports in the literature that free radicals caused damage to living tissues. Chelation therapists posited that the dissolution of clots formed at injury sites released chemically reactive iron into the blood and that this iron generated tissue-damaging free radicals.

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