This mechanism is untenable for several reasons. First, since iron-generated free radicals are produced in all cells normally as they use oxygen in metabolic processes, removal of the iron would result in cell death. Second, it was found in 1956 that EDTA chelation of chemically reactive iron resulted in a tenfold increase in its ability to generate free radicals. Third, it was shown that an additional tenfold increase in free-radical formation occurred when ascorbic acid was added to the EDTA solution. Of interest in this regard is the recent finding that artery cells can mutate as a result of damage to their DNA by free radicals generated in the presence of EDTA-iron-ascorbic acid.

A review of the literature over the past 20 years fails to identify any credible scientific evidence that chelation therapy works. By and large, the papers reporting favorable results are in alternative medicine journals and contain anecdotal reports. The results they describe can be explained by factors other than the chelation with EDTA, such as the placebo effect, changes in diet, and exercise. In contrast, many of the scientific clinical studies present evidence of the potential for dangerous side effects. Thus, the trace metal most acutely lost by excretion in urine, as a result of the EDTA chelation, is zinc. In one study, the zinc plasma concentration was down by 34 percent in five to nine weeks. Considering the advanced age of most EDTA recipients makes it unlikely which major disease would be induced from standard EDTA chelation. However, it is likely that the oxidant reactions that do occur during an infusion, and that an existing disease could be worsened.

Until recently, chelation therapy was promoted by the American College for Advancement of Medicine. Upon investigation of the activities of this group, the Federal Trade Commission charged them with “making unsubstantiated and false advertising claims” about the effectiveness of EDTA as a plaque removal agent. In settlement of these charges the group agreed to stop advertising these claims.

Because of the short exposure to EDTA during chelation therapy and because of the long time needed to develop even microscopic changes, gross pathology may not be detectable. Patients considering chelation therapy should weigh the risks against the benefits of chelation therapy.

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