New study shows this “controversial” therapy sends heart attack and stroke risk plummeting.
Excerpted with permission from Dr. Mark Stengler’s Health Revelations newsletter.
For decades conventional medicine has treated holistic doctors who prescribe chelation therapy to treat patients with cardiovascular disease like we were kooks. Mainstream medicine docs routinely dismiss our use of chelation to treat atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque in the arteries that contributes to heart attacks, strokes, angina (chest pain), and high blood pressure. Our methods have been ridiculed and we are treated as pariahs by many of our peers.
Well, it looks like the time has finally come for those naysayers to strap on their bibs and dine on some crow. A $30 million dollar, a 7-year long study that was funded by the National Institutes of Health…known as the Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy (TACT)…has found that chelation therapy reduced the risk of heart attacks, deaths, strokes and other cardiovascular problems by 18 percent (and over 39 percent for diabetics) in those with a history of heart attacks.
Now let’s face it, you can’t get much more mainstream than NIH, so you’d expect some sheepish apologies about now, right? Think again. The usual critics have circled the wagons and gone on the attack instead.
(Why are we not surprised?) It could not have been summarized better than in an article published by CNN, which stated, “In results that are stunning cardiologists, a new study shows a “fringe” alternative treatment for heart disease was found to be very effective at preventing heart problems—but the report is so controversial even its lead author is questioning the results.”
Yes, even the lead author is unwilling to stand behind his own findings for fear of finding himself ostracized by the mainstream. Meanwhile, the patients who could be benefitting from this life-saving treatment suffer.
“The most exciting part of this study is that there may be an unexpected signal of benefit,” Dr. Gervasio Lamas, chief of Columbia University Division of Cardiology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Florida, and lead author of the study said in a press release put out by the American Heart Association. “We need to understand whether the signal is true, or whether it occurred by chance.”
Other experts weighed in, as well: “If this were true, it would be significant. It would put this therapy in the same ballpark as high blood pressure drugs, or drugs used to lower cholesterol,” said Dr. Steven Nissen, chair of the department of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, who also doubts the results of the study.
Whether you find it amusing or downright maddening, it’s significant that many conclude that a positive result must be flawed because it’s “alternative.” We would remind Dr. Nissen that for decades doctors like us have been witnessing firsthand that chelation treatments do indeed reduce plaque and improve blood flow through the body’s vital circulatory system, including the coronary arteries that feed the heart oxygen and nutrients.
Let’s step back and take a look at this study. It followed all the parameters required for a proper study including that it was double-blind meaning neither the doctors nor the patients knew who was receiving which treatment. One group of 839 patients received 40 infusions of the chelating agent EDTA. The other group of 869 patients received intravenous treatments with a placebo solution containing salt and sugar water.
And remember, it wasn’t some “fringe” alternative group of doctors that came up with the study design. It was designed and monitored by your garden variety mainstream medical professionals.
The term chelation is derived from the Greek word chele, which means “to claw.” This refers to the way chelation agents bind to other substances so they can be flushed out of the body. While there are different chelation agents the main one used in medical settings is a synthetic amino acid called EDTA (ethylene diamine tetra-acetic acid).
Many people are surprised to learn that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved chelation therapy using EDTA as a treatment for lead poisoning more than forty years ago. EDTA was created in Germany in the 1930s to remove heavy metal contamination (from industrial products such as paint) from the human body. After the Second World War US scientists began producing and storing EDTA since it was an effective agent at removing toxic metal molecules from the body.
Then, in the 1950s, EDTA was used to treat people with lead poisoning developed from working in a battery plant. It was also used successfully by the US Navy for sailors who acquired lead poisoning while repainting old ships.
In both of these situations, doctors noticed that people undergoing EDTA therapy experienced positive cardiovascular changes as well as relief from other ailments. Since the 1950s chelation therapy has been used on hundreds of thousands of patients and while it’s FDA-approved for the treatment of lead poisoning it’s not approved for any other condition. With more successful chelation studies this may change.
Heavy metals such as lead are difficult for the body to break down and excrete. Lead is so toxic that if you’re exposed to it your body tries to keep you safe from it by storing most of the metal in your bones. Unfortunately, it still does end up in other tissues and your bloodstream, where it can have serious detrimental effects on the brain, nervous system, kidneys, liver, heart, and circulatory system.
Animal studies show that lead toxicity accelerates plaque formation in the arteries. EDTA can remove lead and other toxic metals from the body. Many holistic doctors, us included, also believe that EDTA can help strip away unwanted calcium deposits. And, as you might know, the buildup of calcium on artery walls can lead to the hardening of the arteries known as atherosclerosis.
EDTA stimulates the production of nitric oxide in blood vessels. This results in dilation of the arteries improving blood flow. This is likely why my patients with angina (chest pain) notice a marked improvement in their symptoms within two to three chelation treatments. Our colleagues have reported similar results.
Hundreds of thousands of EDTA chelation treatments have been performed in the United States for patients with cardiovascular disease and this therapy seems quite safe. Before starting therapy with a patient we take a history, perform an exam, and run specific lab tests to make sure their kidney and liver function is healthy because these organs play a major role in the metabolism of lead and other metals.
We also keep an eye on a person’s mineral balance because, as was mentioned earlier chelation therapy removes excess minerals like calcium. Mineral replacement therapy with oral as well as intravenous infusions should always be part of a comprehensive chelation therapy treatment plan. In fact, Dr. Lamas and his team followed up their original study with a trial of adding a regimen of high-dose oral antioxidant vitamins to the intravenous chelation infusions.
The results showed enough of a benefit from the vitamins and minerals that the researchers believe more research is warranted. A chelation therapy session is best done over a period of three hours or a little longer to make sure a patient’s calcium level does not drop too low. People with atherosclerosis usually require thirty or more treatments.
Always work with a doctor trained in chelation therapy. For example, Dr. Stengler was trained by the organization International IV Nutritional Therapy for Professionals. Another good referral resource is the American College for the Advancement of Medicine (www.acam.org)
Remember to read mainstream health news with a grain of salt. You often have to dig a little deeper to get to the real truth. This new study is mainstream proof of what many of us have been saying all along, chelation therapy can be of great benefit to heart patients.
CNN Health website accessed online March 17, 2012 at www.cnn.com/2012/11/04/health/chelation-heart-study.