Chelation As Preventive Therapy for Heart Disease


It is very hard for straightforward and presumably honest medical researchers to give us much of anything objective about something that has been labeled “alternative medicine”.  Maybe there should only be two kinds of medicine.  Good and not good; helpful and not helpful. I was minding my own business – well, as much as ever — when I found an article about chelation as a preventative for heart disease.  It basically says that chelation seems to “work”.  But it also seems that some people are ashamed to find this out and don’t want too many people to take advantage of this as a treatment option.  This makes about as much sense as most of what I have read recently about medical research, but I do have one way to put it in context. I have spoken at some alternative medicine meetings where I have proselytized about the effectiveness of high dose vitamins — chelated, to pass the blood-brain barrier.  I have been told that I would be skewered by colleagues.  Colleagues never seem to have much worried about what I have to say.  As a matter of fact, the world seems to have a pretty bad track record as far as listening to what I say.

At any rate, I have spoken at meetings where intravenous chelation was taught, with various indications including cardiovascular protection.  The American College for Advancement in Medicine even offers a course that leads to certification.  Aside from having the good taste to have invited me to be a speaker, the ACAM folks make sense.  They are talking “integrative,” and they are talking “options.”  They are also talking “prevention,” which is notoriously hard to sell.

Chelation has been reviewed by others, as well, in a typically lackluster but probably appropriate academic way.  Looking at how Forbes reviewed this same study, it’s occurring to me that perhaps the business folks are the real optimists. Perhaps the truth lies in another place. When I visited Mexico and talked to some folks who had gone down there for IV chelation, there were delirious wide-eyed reviews of how wonderful patients felt afterward.  Looking at the big picture here, maybe the final answer is not in the data.  After all, by definition, every research study has its criteria and people are looking for what works best on the most people.  So you take a study like the chelation study, where a lot of people just did not follow through, and then you study people longer, and whatever. Medicine is about individuals.  That is why it is “art” as opposed to science.  It’s a mixture of hard statistics with some vague notions of bedside manner.  The real problem is fixing a broken human; or better yet, preventing a human from getting broken.  How do we pick the right folks for the best treatment so they can live long and happy? Right now, my bet is in for pre-existing beliefs.  I have seen beliefs move mountains.  I have seen people and known that if they had the “fight” in them, they would do better.  I have seen people who believe all doctors — at least in America — are idiots.  So I should not have been surprised when these patients responded dramatically to a treatment administered to them by a Mexican renegade physician.

It is reported in the first article that three people have died from hypocalcemia from intravenous chelation.  One adult and two children.  Children?  Anyone who would treat a child to prevent cardiovascular complications from heavy metal including plaques in their arterial walls would have to be pretty crazy.  Generally, a child has not lived long enough to get this problem.  If the children had life threatening heavy metal poisoning, then they should not be reported in this series. An awful lot hinges upon the practitioner giving a thorough and understandable discussion of risks, and getting a valid informed consent.  Even more depends upon a patient having a right to choose, and using such a right intelligently.

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