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Chelation Therapy for Mental Health Conditions

Some claim Chelation therapy improves overall functioning of the brain and improves memory and mental health, but the scientific evidence is limited.

Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness. Each state and each discipline has its own rules about whether practitioners are required to be professionally licensed. If you plan to visit a practitioner, it is recommended that you choose one who is licensed by a recognized national organization and who abides by the organization's standards. It is always best to speak with your primary health care provider before starting any new therapeutic technique.

Background

Chelation therapy was developed during the 1950s as a way to cleanse the blood and blood vessel walls of toxins and minerals. Therapy involves infusions into the bloodstream of the chemical edetic acid (EDTA). Sometimes the therapy may be given by mouth, which occasionally uses other chemicals.

Chelation was initially used as a treatment for heavy metal poisoning, but some observers believed that people receiving chelation therapy were benefiting in other ways. In modern times, chelation practitioners may recommend this therapy for atherosclerosis (clogged arteries), heart disease, peripheral vascular disease (claudication), diabetes and many other health problems. Chelation practitioners often recommend 20 or more treatments, which may cost several thousand dollars.


 


The term "chelation" is also sometimes used in medicine as a general term to refer to the use of chemicals in the blood to remove specific toxins or contaminants (for example, deferoxamine is a chelating agent used to treat excessive amounts of iron in the body). This type of chelation should not be confused with EDTA chelation therapy.

Theory

It has been suggested that chelation breaks down cholesterol plaques that cause clogged arteries and removes calcium from these plaques. However, no convincing scientific evidence has supported this theory. Chelation has also been suggested as an antioxidant therapy, although there is limited research in this area as well.

Evidence

Scientists have studied chelation therapy for the following health problems:

Lead toxicity and heavy metal poisoning
Chelation therapy with calcium disodium EDTA is an accepted therapy in medical institutions for lead toxicity. Studies have demonstrated that chelation therapy reduced lead levels in the body and slowed progression of kidney failure in people with lead toxicity. Chelation therapy may also be used when toxic levels of iron, arsenic, or mercury are present.

Atherosclerosis
Several recent high-quality studies suggest that chelation does not improve atherosclerosis (clogged arteries). The American Heart Association does not recommend chelation therapy for arteriosclerotic heart disease. People with heart conditions should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional. Patients are advised not to delay starting more proven treatments to try chelation. Research is ongoing.

Improved kidney (renal) function
Repeated chelation therapy may improve renal function and slow the progression of renal insufficiency. Further research is needed to confirm these results.

Peripheral vascular disease
Studies suggest that chelation does not improve peripheral vascular disease, or claudication (exercise-induced pain or fatigue in the legs caused by clogged arteries).

 


Unproven Uses

Chelation therapy has been suggested for many other uses, based on tradition or on scientific theories. However, these uses have not been thoroughly studied in humans, and there is limited scientific evidence about safety or effectiveness. Some of these suggested uses are for conditions that are potentially life-threatening. Consult with a health care provider before using chelation for any use.

Abnormal heart rhythms
Alzheimer's disease
Anemia
Arthritis
Autism
Band keratopathy (calcium deposition in the cornea)
Blood disorders
Cataracts
Chronic degenerative diseases
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Coronary heart disease
Dementia
Diabetes
Digoxin toxicity
Disease diagnosis
Emphysema
Gallstones
Gout
Heart disease
Hemochromatosis
High blood pressure
Kidney diseases
Lupus
Macular degeneration
Memory problems
Neurodegenerative disorders
Osteoarthritis
Osteoporosis
Parkinson's disease
Rheumatoid arthritis
Scleroderma
Sexual development
Sickle cell disease
Snake venom poisoning
Stroke
Thalassemia
Vision problems
Wilson's disease

Potential Dangers

Chelation may cause many severe side effects, including severe kidney damage, reduction of the body's ability to make new blood cells in the bone marrow, dangerously low blood pressure, fast heart rate, dangerously low calcium levels in the blood, increased risk of bleeding or blood clots (including interference with the effects of the blood-thinning drug warfarin [Coumadin]), immune reactions, abnormal heart rhythms, allergic reactions, blood sugar imbalances and convulsions. There have been reports of headache, fatigue, fever, nausea, vomiting, gastrointestinal upset, excessive thirst, sweating (diaphoresis), low white blood cell counts and low levels of blood platelets. People using chelation have had severe reactions in which they have stopped breathing. Death has been reported, although it is not clear if chelation therapy was the direct cause.


 


Avoid chelation therapy if you have heart, kidney or liver disease or any condition affecting blood cells or the immune system. Chelation should be avoided in pregnant or breast-feeding women and in children. Chelation may not be safe in anybody; speak with a qualified health provider to balance the risks and possible benefits.

Summary

Chelation therapy with EDTA has been suggested for many conditions. Chelation may play a role in the treatment of lead or heavy metal toxicity. It should be used only under the direct supervision of a qualified health care provider. Chelation has not been shown to be effective for any other condition. Recent studies suggest that chelation may not be beneficial as a treatment for clogged arteries or peripheral vascular disease. Chelation may cause many adverse effects or death. It should be avoided by patients with heart, kidney or liver disease; patients with conditions affecting blood cells or the immune system; pregnant or breast-feeding women; and children. Speak with your health care provider if you are considering chelation therapy.

The information in this monograph was prepared by the professional staff at Natural Standard, based on thorough systematic review of scientific evidence. The material was reviewed by the Faculty of the Harvard Medical School with final editing approved by Natural Standard.

Resources

  1. Natural Standard: An organization that produces scientifically based reviews of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) topics
  2. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM): A division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services dedicated to research

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Selected Scientific Studies: Chelation Therapy

Natural Standard reviewed more than 10,300 articles to prepare the professional monograph from which this version was created.

Selected studies are listed below:

    1. Anderson TJ, Hubacek J, Wyse DG, et al. Effect of chelation therapy on endothelial function in patients with coronary artery disease: PATCH substudy. J Am Coll Cardiol 2003;41(3):420-425.
    2. Bell SA. Chelation therapy for patients with ischemic heart disease [Comment]. JAMA 2002;287(16):2077.
    3. Chappell LT, Miranda R, Hancke C, et al. EDTA chelation treatment for peripheral vascular disease. J Intern Med 1995;237(4):429-432.
    4. Chappell LT, Stahl JP, Evans R. EDTA chelation therapy for vascular disease: a meta-analysis using unpublished data. J Adv Med 1994;7:131-142.
    5. Chappell LT, Stahl JP. The correlation between EDTA chelation therapy and improvement in cardiovascular function: a meta-analysis. J Adv Med 1993;6:139-160.
    6. Chappell LT. Applications of EDTA chelation therapy. Alt Med Rev 1997;2(6):426-432.
    7. Ernst E. Chelation therapy for coronary heart disease: an overview of all clinical investigations. Am Heart J 2000;140(1):139-141.
    8. Ernst E. Chelation therapy for peripheral arterial occlusive disease: a systematic review. Circulation 1997;96(3):1031-1033.
    9. Grawehr M, Sener B, Waltimo T, Zehnder M. Interactions of ethylenediamine tetraacetic acid with sodium hypochlorite in aqueous solutions. Int Endod J 2003;36(6):411-417.
    10. Grebe HB, Gregory PJ. Inhibition of warfarin anticoagulation associated with chelation therapy. Pharmacotherapy 2002;22(8):1067-1069.

 


  1. Hellmich HL, Frederickson CJ, DeWitt DS, et al. Protective effects of zinc chelation in traumatic brain injury correlate with upregulation of neuroprotective genes in rat brain. Neurosci Lett 2004;355(3):221-225.
  2. Huynh-Do U. [Gout nephropathy—ghost or reality?]. Ther Umsch 2004;61(9):567-569.
  3. Knudtson ML, Wyse DG, Galbraith PD, et al. Chelation therapy for ischemic heart disease: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA 2002;287(4):481-486.
  4. Lin JL, Lin-Tan DT, Hsu KH, Yu CC. Environmental lead exposure and progression of chronic renal diseases in patients without diabetes. N Engl J Med 2003;348(4):277-286.
  5. Lin JL, Ho HH, Yu CC. Chelation therapy for patients with elevated body lead burden and progressive renal insufficiency: a randomized, controlled trial. Ann Intern Med 1999;130(1):7-13.
  6. Lyngdorf P, Guldager B, Holm J, et al. Chelation therapy for intermittent claudication: a double-blind, randomized, controlled trial. Circulation 1996;93(2):395-396.
  7. Markowitz ME. Managing childhood lead poisoning. Salud Publica Mex 2003;S225-S231.
  8. Morgan BW, Kori S, Thomas JD. Adverse effects in 5 patients receiving EDTA at an outpatient chelation clinic. Vet Hum Toxicol 2002;44(5):274-276.
  9. Najjar DM, Cohen EJ, Rapuano CJ, et al. EDTA chelation for calcific band keratopathy: results and long-term follow-up. Am J Ophthalmol 2004;137(6):1056-1064.
  10. Quan H, Ghali WA, Verhoef MJ, et al. Use of chelation therapy after coronary angiography. Am J Med 2001;111(9):686-691.
  11. Sang Choe E, Warrier B, Soo Chun J, et al. EDTA-induced activation of Ca-regulated proteins in the vaginal mucosa 2004;68A(1):159-167.
  12. Shannon M. Severe lead poisoning in pregnancy. Ambul Pediatr 2003;3(1):37-39.
  13. Strassberg D. Chelation therapy for patients with ischemic heart disease [Comment]. JAMA 2002;287(16):2077.
  14. van Rij AM, Solomon C, Packer SG, et al. Chelation therapy for intermittent claudication: a double-blind, randomized, controlled trial. Circulation 1994;90(3):1194-1199.
  15. Villarruz MV, Dans A, Tan F. Chelation therapy for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (Cochrane Review). Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2002;(4):CD002785.

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APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, November 7). Chelation Therapy for Mental Health Conditions, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, April 4 from https://www.healthyplace.com/alternative-mental-health/treatments/chelation-therapy-for-mental-health-conditions

Last Updated: February 8, 2016

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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