Exposing the monetary motives, false prophets, and doomsday naysayers who are trying to destroy the legitimate chelation industry
Let me say this up front … this is not an article about chelation itself. Instead, the purpose here is to write an article about the business of chelation. Rest assured, chelation is big business, one the pharmaceutical companies and the heart surgeons wish didn’t exist, and one that has brought out more profiteers and charlatans than I care to count. My intent here is to explore and expose the dangerous chelation products I’ve seen advertised in print and on the internet, as well as debunk the false claims that I believe are destroying what once promised to be a true revolution in health care and healthy aging. I also intend to explain the basic science-based facts about chelation therapy, and provide you with the information you need to sort through the hype and make informed purchasing choices.
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What’s on the chelation market and who is selling It?
There are all manners and types of chelation products available. A quick Google search of the term “chelation” brings up nearly 2 million results in less than one second. Of course, you can refine your search by using the phrase “oral chelation” and that will get it down to less than 300,000 results. However, the major players in the chelation business pay big money to the search engines to make sure their websites come up “page 1” when someone searches on either of these search terms.
So how do you know whom to trust? Below is a brief synopsis of some of the most popular forms and a review of the types of marketing used to promote the various chelation products:
IV Chelation—available only in a clinical setting
Some of the biggest sellers of chelation therapy today are not the purveyors of oral chelation products. Instead, they are the thousands of IV chelation doctors who treat patients in small clinics. These doctors belong to organizations like the American College for the Advancement of Medicine (ACAM) and the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M).
The vast majority of these IV chelation doctors are reputable, upstanding medical professionals who are treating patients who are suffering from a wide range of illnesses caused by heavy metal toxicity. In fact, Dr. Garry Gordon, a man whom I highly respect, was one of the founding members of ACAM. Professionals like Dr. Gordon understand that IV chelation is the first step in eliminating acute heavy metal toxicity and that oral chelation is an appropriate follow up recommendation for patients who have completed their IV chelation treatments.
But there is a small minority of IV chelation doctors who tend to downplay and discredit oral chelation. Their motives vary, but economics most certainly play a role. Why else would they choose to condemn the effectiveness of oral chelation in the face of a mountain of clinical and observational data that clearly supports and affirms oral chelation’s health benefits? Obviously, some of these IV chelation doctors feel threatened by oral chelation. I mean, if you can get the same health enhancing effect by taking a quality oral chelation product for three or four months at a cost of about $100, why would anyone choose IV chelation that costs two or three times as much?
The point here is that reputable IV chelation clinics support oral chelation as an adjunct follow-up treatment to IV chelation because they know it works. So when I hear an IV chelation doctor downplaying the benefits of oral chelation, I question not only his motivation, but his judgment and medical ethics too.
Disodium EDTA—dangerously chelates calcium
Disodium EDTA has become extremely popular amongst various unscrupulous sellers of oral chelation products. There are a few reasons for this. First and foremost, disodium EDTA is probably the least expensive form of EDTA. That means they can purchase it in bulk, pack a lot of it into a capsule, and charge whatever they want to charge for it.
I ’ve seen different companies go in vastly different directions when it comes to marketing disodium EDTA-based chelation products. For example, I know of one company that advertises almost exclusively through the internet using pay-per-click website advertising. They sell capsules containing upwards of 600 mg of disodium EDTA at rock-bottom discount pricing. I know of another company that takes just the opposite tact. They put the miniscule amount of 50 mg of disodium EDTA into each capsule, “enhance” the product by adding all manner of other ingredients, and charge a premium price for a product that will in all probability simply chelate the other ingredients and won’t do you a bit of good!
And to top it all off, neither of these companies mention the dangers involved in using an inferior oral chelation compound like disodium EDTA. Instead, they quote and capitalize on studies that prove the safety and effectiveness of a completely different type of EDTA compound, i.e. calcium disodium EDTA. It is calcium disodium EDTA tablets that can be found in the 1964 Physicians Desk Reference (PDR) as the only medically approved treatment for the removal of lead.1 On the other hand, disodium EDTA was never medically approved for the removal of toxic heavy metals. Instead, it was approved only as a treatment for hypercalcemia (too much calcium in the blood) via IV administration.
And that’s exactly the dangerous thing about disodium EDTA—it chelates calcium! And while the companies who sell disodium EDTA claim that is a good thing, the reality is quite different. Calcium is an essential mineral to humans and all manner of sickness, disease, and even death can be attributed to calcium deficiency. Chelating calcium, which by the way is one of the most difficult minerals for most people to get their recommended daily intake of, is not only foolish, but dangerous.
Even the FDA has come out publically against the use of disodium EDTA. On January 16, 2008, the FDA issued a public health advisory to alert patients and health care professionals of the dangers of disodium EDTA and to try to clarify the confusion between these two very different forms of EDTA.2 Below is an excerpt from this public health advisory:
- Edetate Disodium (disodium EDTA) was approved many years ago as an emergency treatment for certain patients with a condition called hypercalcemia (very high levels of calcium in the blood) or certain patients with heart rhythm problems as a result of very high amounts of digitalis in the blood. However, there are newer drugs that have been approved since that time that treat these conditions.
- Edetate Calcium Disodium (calcium disodium EDTA) was also approved many years ago and is still used to reduce dangerously high blood lead levels (severe lead poisoning). This drug is medically necessary because there are very few other drugs available to treat severe lead poisoning.
“On January 16, 2008, the FDA issued a public health advisory to alert patients and health care professionals of the dangers of disodium EDTA …”
The advisory goes on to describe documented deaths from people receiving disodium EDTA when they were supposed to receive calcium disodium EDTA. It further urges hospitals and health care practitioners to evaluate their need for stocking disodium EDTA and, if there is no reason to stock disodium EDTA, the FDA urges them to “remove the product from stock to avoid confusion with Edetate Calcium Disodium (calcium disodium EDTA).”
Now, I am aware of one company that markets a disodium EDTA formulation on the internet and through the mail that offers a “lifetime guarantee.” You may be familiar with them. You might even have purchased their oral chelation product in the past. If you have, I would strongly encourage you to put their lifetime guarantee to the test. Call them up, ask them why they sold you a product intended to treat hypercalcemia (which very few people have). Then ask them why their literature said the product would remove calcium from arterial plaque (which it won’t). Finally, ask them to honor their lifetime guarantee and refund your money for every bottle of this stuff you ever purchased. (I bet they won’t!)
The thing to remember about oral chelation products containing disodium EDTA is that they chelate healthy calcium from the blood and not calcified arterial plaque. The marketers of these products are taking a scientifically unproven leap of faith and I caution you not to make that leap with them.
Citrus Pectin—a good fiber
The purveyors of pectin-based oral chelation products are the ones that really get my goat. For one thing, pectin is a very good source of fiber, but it’s not really a very good heavy metal chelator. So when these companies claim their pectin fiber products are “powerful chelators” of heavy metals, they are immediately suspect in my mind.
The other thing they tend to do is overstate the effectiveness of pectin products and at the same time, spread negative and false information about EDTA-based oral chelation products. For example, there is one pectin company out there that hired a Ph.D. who claims to be a “nutrition detective” to write a sales letter promoting the company’s pectin-based oral chelation product. When I first read this sales letter, I was flabbergasted to see that it was signed by a someone claiming to have a Ph.D. in nutrition. Now, it is true that there are many in the traditional medical community who downplay the effectiveness of EDTA-based oral chelation (usually for self-serving interests), but to have a “nutrition expert” with a Ph.D. make truly erroneous statements about the effectiveness of EDTA-based oral chelation blew me away!
“What she neglected to mention is that the dosage in the study amounted to taking 50 capsules per day of the pectin product she is hawking!”
Here’s a for instance … in her sales letter this “nutrition detective” stated that “EDTA chelation has only been proven to remove toxins and metals if you take it when you are hooked up to an IV.” This is patently false. Literally! Back in the 1950’s and 60’s calcium-disodium EDTA tablets were an FDA approved, patented pharmaceutical for the treatment of lead poisoning. That’s right, EDTA tablets for oral consumption.
And while this writer seems confident in pointing out her perceived flaws with EDTA oral chelation, she conveniently omits important details regarding the studies she sites supporting pectin-based products.
In her letter, she touts a pilot clinical trial that showed that participants excreted more than four times as much toxic heavy metal by using her pectin-based product.3 What she neglected to mention is that the dosage in the study amounted to taking 15,000 milligrams of pectin! This was conveniently left out because the formula she was hawking contained only 300 milligrams of pectin per capsule. I would imagine 50 capsules of fiber is certainly going to clean you out—of heavy metals and just about everything else!
The bottom line with pectin is simple … pectin is a good source of dietary fiber, and I am a firm believer in the importance of fiber in the diet. However, pectin is not a very good chelator, and unless you are prepared to consume massive quantities of pectin, it is not going to do much to remove heavy metal toxins from your body.
Magnesium EDTA—a good fertilizer
Now I’ve written on this topic before, but it bears repeating. Please do not put magnesium EDTA into your body—in any form. I need to add that last part because I’ve recently come across one company that was selling magnesium EDTA suppositories.
There are a few reasons I am down on magnesium EDTA suppositories. Unless you inject an EDTA compound intravenously, you are not going to absorb all the EDTA into your blood stream. It’s estimated that with oral chelation formulas, about 5-15% is actually absorbed from the gut into the blood stream. However, it is well known that even less, probably about 2-4% of EDTA is absorbed through the rectum. Thus, an EDTA suppository is going to get very little actual EDTA into your system. And I really can’t think of a more uncomfortable way to try and remove heavy metal toxins.
As magnesium EDTA is not commercially available as a food or pharmaceutical grade ingredient, those who claim to use it are simply mixing an EDTA compound with a magnesium compound. This is a convenient way to hide the type of EDTA being used.
Magnesium EDTA, like disodium EDTA, is a very weak EDTA chelate and will have a strong affinity for calcium, and I’ve already touched on why that is a very bad idea. To my knowledge, the only commercial use for magnesium EDTA is as an agricultural fertilizer.
Calcium Disodium EDTA—safe and effective oral chelation
Now, companies that market oral chelation products containing calcium disodium EDTA set themselves apart from the other chelation companies by providing what is probably the safest and most effective form of oral chelation on the market today. Since it is already bound with calcium, the EDTA in calcium disodium EDTA will not chelate calcium, which is a major risk for anyone using disodium EDTA or magnesium EDTA. However, once in the blood stream, calcium disodium EDTA will quickly shed its calcium bond and chelate toxic heavy metals such as lead or mercury. It’s just a matter of which metal molecule it comes in contact with first.
Like the other forms of oral EDTA, calcium disodium is not particularly well absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract. As stated before, only about 5-15% actually makes it into the cardiovascular system where it can chelate and remove toxins from the blood. However, unlike the other forms of oral EDTA, the unabsorbed portion of calcium disodium EDTA has other health benefits.
“I can not emphasize enough that calcium is the last thing most people want removed from their bodies!”
Calcium disodium EDTA will chelate toxic heavy metals within the gastrointestinal tract. Unabsorbed calcium disodium EDTA (the portion that doesn’t make it into the bloodstream) continues to chelate toxins as it passes through the body. It does a great job of cleansing bile acids of toxins which keeps them from being reabsorbed into the body. Toxins in bile are believed to play a prominent role in the development of colon cancer. So, even unabsorbed calcium disodium EDTA contributes to overall general health.
Again, the same can’t be said for magnesium or disodium EDTA. True, they will continue to chelate as they pass through the gastrointestinal tract, but they are first and foremost going to chelate calcium. I can not emphasize enough that calcium is the last thing most people want removed from their bodies! The confusion comes from the claims the makers of these inferior EDTA products make. They say their formulas chelate the calcium contained in calcified arteries. This is not true! These forms of EDTA sweep away healthy calcium from the blood stream (the calcium your body needs for life) and may have little or no affect on the calcification found in arteries.
On the other hand, calcium disodium EDTA very well may have a beneficial effect on arterial calcification. As the current theory goes, the presence of lead in the body is a contributing factor to arterial calcification. Since calcium disodium EDTA is the established, time-tested, proven and verified substance for the removal of lead, it stands to reason that people who consume it are going to have less arterial calcification and calcified blockage. Neither disodium EDTA nor magnesium EDTA, since their first affinity is for calcium, can make this claim.
What does a quality oral chelation product look like?
Now that we know what the most effective form of EDTA is, let’s move on to what a quality oral chelation product looks like. First and foremost, it is going to contain calcium disodium EDTA and it is going to contain it in amounts that are scalable. By that I mean you can adjust the dosage up or down to get as much or as little calcium disodium EDTA as needed, without having to worry about getting too much or too little of the other ingredients. Thus, when you have a product that packs in the daily recommended dose of vitamins and minerals along with the EDTA, you need to follow the dosage instruction exactly. With these products, you can’t adjust the dosage up or down without affecting the efficacy or the safety of the product.
So, a quality oral chelation product contains calcium disodium EDTA along with other chelators that allow you to adjust the dosage up and down without affecting efficacy or safety. So what are these other chelators that work well with calcium disodium EDTA and allow for scalable dosages? Well, I am more than happy to tell you.
Malic acid is the substance that gives grapes and apples their tart taste. Candy makers use malic acid to make tart candy. Unbeknownst to the children who enjoy these types of candy, the malic acid they contain chelates aluminum, along with other dangerous toxins. In fact, malic acid is one of the strongest chelators of aluminum known to science, and aluminum in the body is not healthy. As we’ve discussed, calcium disodium EDTA chelates toxic heavy metals like lead. But aluminum, as we all know, is a much lighter metal than lead. A high quality oral chelation product that combines the heavy metal chelator calcium disodium EDTA with the light metal chelator malic acid is a good combination.
Another natural chelator is garlic. The so called “stinking rose” has powerful health benefits as both an antioxidant and chelator. Garlic has been shown to chelate lead, mercury, and other toxins from the body. Of course, garlic is also well known for its odor and ability to “come back at you,” resulting in an unpleasant aftertaste. Quality chelation formulas counter these negative side effects of garlic by including parsley powder. As any well-heeled diner knows, sampling a sprig of parsley after a meal serves as a natural digestive aid and calms the stomach. Thus, a few milligrams of parsley powder in an oral chelation formula will ease digestion of the chelating agents and ensure the garlic doesn’t rebound and make one uncomfortable.
A word about minerals
All chelation products, including IV chelation and both the high quality and inferior oral chelation products will chelate important minerals from the body. Of course, magnesium and disodium EDTA will chelate calcium, but they will also chelate other essential minerals that need to be replaced. That’s why the companies that sell these products pack additional minerals into their capsules. However, the amounts they use are not adjustable and there is the possibility you could consume excessive amounts of certain minerals if you go beyond the recommended dosage.
That’s why some companies that sell calcium disodium EDTA chelation products wisely suggest taking a separate multivitamin and/or mineral supplement. By keeping these products separate, it allows the end users to adjust the oral chelation dosage up or down without the risk of “getting too much of a good thing” from the multivitamin/multimineral product.
With meals or without meals
Another area where the marketing of the various types of oral chelation products has led to consumer confusion is in regards to the best time of day to take oral chelation. The people who sell the “enhanced” versions containing disodium EDTA and a handful of vitamins and minerals say that their products should be taken with meals. The people who consume quality oral chelation products that contain only chelators like calcium disodium EDTA and malic acid are instructed to take these products without meals.
“You should take a quality oral chelation product containing calcium disodium EDTA on an empty stomach and also take a quality multivitamin/multimineral supplement with meals.”
Clearly, something is amiss. It is well documented that for maximum absorption of oral EDTA—whatever the kind—it should be taken on an empty stomach. When taken with a meal, the EDTA immediately begins to chelate the minerals and metals in the stomach.
The companies that instruct their customers to consume their products with meals do so because they know they are providing an inferior and potentially dangerous form of EDTA. If you take these inferior oral chelation products without food, the potential exists for you to chelate the essential minerals they have included in their formulas. If you consistently do that over a long period of time, your odds of suffering from essential mineral deficiency dramatically increase.
Thus, I’ll re-emphasize the point I made earlier. You should take a quality oral chelation product containing calcium disodium EDTA on an empty stomach and also take a quality multivitamin/multimineral supplement with meals.
Caveat emptor— buyer beware!
As stated at the beginning, I believe (like Dr. Gordon) that everyone should take a quality oral chelation product on a daily basis. The people who downplay oral chelation or sell inferior forms of oral chelation certainly do not have the best interest of the end user in mind. Thus, like most everything available in the marketplace today, the old Roman saying, caveat emptor—let the buyer beware—still applies. I hope the above helps you make a wise purchasing decision. The proven benefits of oral chelation easily outweigh the negative naysayer’s unproven opinions. Remember, only products containing calcium disodium EDTA should ever be purchased, and those products must be scalable so you can choose the correct dosage to fit your needs.
As I mentioned before, Dr. Garry Gordon’s new book about oral chelation, written in collaboration with David Jay Brown, will be available in the fall of 2008. This simple essay of mine pales in comparison to the wealth of knowledge that book will contain. And while I urge you to follow the advice I’ve given today, I also urge you to get a copy of Dr. Gordon’s book, Detoxification with Oral Chelation.
I still have hope that the health care revolution that chelation promises can become a reality—despite, or in spite of, the business of chelation. Don’t be fooled by false promises or inferior products. Take a stand now … and a high quality, well formulated, oral chelation supplement. You’ll be better off for it.
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This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always consult with a physician before embarking on a dietary supplement program.
Physicians Desk Reference, 18th edition. Oradel, NJ: Medical Economics Co, Inc, 1964.
http://www.fda.gov/Cder/drug/advisory/edetate_disodium.htm - posted 01/16/08.
Eliaz, I, Hotchkiss, AT, Fishman, ML, Rode, D. The Effect of Modified Citrus Pectin on Urinary Excretion of Toxic Elements. Phytotherapy Research 2006:20 (10); 859-864.