hand with IV drip

Q. Are you familiar with EDTA (ethylene diamine tetra acetic acid)? My newspaper has a large ad today on this for artery cleaning.

It sounds too good to be true…and I know the rest of that sentence. What is your opinion, please?

A. When we first heard about EDTA chelation therapy more than three decades ago we were as skeptical as you. It just sounded too good to be true.

EDTA Is An Antidote to Lead Poisoning:

Chelation (removing heavy metals from the body) with EDTA is a standard treatment for lead poisoning. Doctors do not dispute this approved use.

For decades, some proponents have claimed that chelation would also be beneficial in fighting atherosclerosis and reducing plaque, but cardiologists were quite skeptical. Some have gone so far as to call EDTA chelation therapy quackery when it is employed for treating coronary or peripheral artery disease.

Physicians who employed EDTA in their practices told us that this approach frequently eased symptoms of angina in heart patients. They insisted that some people did not require bypass surgery after EDTA chelation because their vascular symptoms improved so dramatically.

In those days there were no double-blind, placebo-controlled trials to support their assertions. Because the EDTA was administered intravenously, we assumed that there would be a substantial placebo effect. As a result we remained agnostic until solid scientific research could be completed.

We were also put off by the high cost of EDTA chelation. The material itself is inexpensive. We couldn’t understand why doctors were charging so much to drip an intravenous solution of EDTA into someone’s vein, especially if there was no solid scientific support for such therapy.

TACT Changes the Game:

Then the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine organized a controlled trial of EDTA chelation. Over 1700 patients who had experienced a heart attack were recruited. This taxpayer-funded clinical trial involved 30 weekly intravenous infusions followed by 10 maintenance infusions every two to eight weeks for a total of 40 infusions. People received either placebo infusions or EDTA.

This treatment was found to reduce a person’s chance of suffering a second heart attack or stroke or undergoing a repeat cardiac procedure (JAMA, March 27, 2013).

This study was dubbed TACTTrial to Assess Chelation Therapy. Further analysis has shown that people with diabetes got the greatest benefit, particularly if they were also taking a high-dose vitamin and mineral supplement regimen (American Heart Journal, July, 2014). For these people, treatment reduced their subsequent risk by about half.

The investigators concluded:

“In stable post-MI [heart attack] patients on evidence-based medical therapy, the combination of oral high-dose vitamins and chelation therapy compared with double placebo reduced clinically important cardiovascular events to an extent that was both statistically significant and of potential clinical relevance.”

As you no doubt noticed, this is not exactly an enthusiastic send off. On the other hand, it is cautiously optimistic.

Cardiologists Still Skeptical:

Such results are actually quite impressive. In fact EDTA chelation was better than statin-type medicines in preventing a second heart attack. Doctors use something called the Number Needed to Treat or NNT to evaluate drug effectiveness. In other words, how many people need to take a medicine to prevent one bad outcome such as a heart attack? The lower the NNT the more effective the drug.

In this study, you would have needed to treat 12 people with EDTA chelation to prevent one heart attack after five years. The authors state: “This compares with the 5-year NNT of 16 for statin therapy for secondary prevention.” Put another way, EDTA chelation outperformed statins because fewer people needed to receive treatment to achieve a desirable outcome.

If a new medication were developed by a pharmaceutical company that could reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke, especially in high-risk populations (like those with diabetes), the cardiology community would be jumping for joy. We would likely see commercials on television to “ask your doctor if EDTA chelation therapy is right for you.”

But EDTA is not a new drug. It has been used in medicine since the 1950s to treat both mercury and lead poisoning. That’s why the cost of the “drug” is actually very low. It is no longer under patent. But treatment in a clinic can be pricey. One infusion can cost over $100 and some clinicians recommend up to 30 infusions over 12 to 16 weeks for a total cost of several thousands of dollars that insurance may not cover.

How Safe is EDTA Chelation Therapy?

Mainstream medicine has been quite concerned about safety of EDTA chelation. Cardiologists have warned about kidney damage, low blood pressure and low calcium levels.

Interestingly, in the TACT study, the number of serious adverse events were identical in the EDTA chelation and high dose vitamin group to the placebo infusion and placebo vitamin group (13% in both). If this were a drug trial, the investigators would conclude that the medicine didn’t cause any more side effects than placebo and was therefore safe.

Reader Responses:

Visitors to this website have offered some interesting insights on EDTA chelation therapy. You can read other articles and reader comments at these links:

EDTA Chelation Therapy: Exonerated if not Celebrated

EDTA Chelation Effectiveness Challenges Doubting Cardiologists

Here are some unscientific stories from visitors to this site:

Dan shares this experience:

“In 1986 I had non-invasive diagnostic procedures that established significant artery blockage in both my legs. My kidneys were functioning at less than 50% to remove creatinine.

“I had 24 treatments of EDTA with lab urine tests every five treatments. After 24 treatments my indicators had improved enough to stop the treatments. I sat in a room with 20 other patients for the 4-hour IV drip. Next to me was a doctor (M.D.) and 2 or 3 others who had been sent home to die.

“The EDTA began to do amazing things for the other patients. In my mind, EDTA may have saved my life even as it did for several others in the treatment room with whom I associated on a weekly basis. I am now 78 years old and I have no return of the symptoms I previously experienced. I am pretty much a vegetarian now, including the avoidance of dairy products, and I work a good bit at gardening and outside yard work. I should walk more, and drink more water.”

L.E. and her family:

“My husband and I plus my mother-she at age 80-started treatments.

“She was so confused in her mind she could not make reasonable sense talking. She took 10 treatments of chelation. She got full recovery of her thinking and could talk and answer anyone perfectly. She lived to be 93 and did not take more treatments, but kept her clearness of mind very well to her death.”

“My husband took 25 treatments. His mind also got better. His blood pressure got much lower for the rest of his life. He did take some treatments when he was in his early 70s, and it helped blood pressure and thinking.”

“I was not as bad as my mother or husband. It helped my thinking. I had some heart problems which it also helped. I am now 89 and doing very well – clear mind and my heart is not having failure or the routine old age effects. I know chelation did help me in many ways. I am not taking it and haven’t for the past 15 years.”

William offered this story:

“I had severe angina in 1999 and was to go for an angiogram procedure. I didn’t fancy this, as it was considered dangerous. I then heard of Chelation Therapy and even though it was expensive I decided to give it a try-two or three treatments a week for a month and then I tapered off to once a week and then to once a month.

“After about 20 treatments my angina was completely gone and I went back to an active life that included walking three rounds of golf a week. I have stayed active all these years and my angina never came back.”

We are the first to admit that these are anecdotes. Most physicians would discount such stories as meaningless, but coupled with data from the TACT trial, one must assume that some people do get benefit from EDTA chelation therapy.

Please share your own experience below and vote on this article at the top of the page.

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  1. lois

    Has someone tried the EDTA Chelation cream? I just received a brochure on it. Can this actually go through the flesh to the blood stream and remove the heavy metals I have from regular use (some 30 years!) of garden dusts, sprays, etc. I’m now on several meds for heart failure, etc.


    I had to go to SC. to get evaluated and get one IV EDTA treatment and evaluation of my 6 hr urine sample.

    Then the next day, a IV drip to replace the minerals removed by the EDTA IV, I noticed when I got back to N.Y.C. (The Bronx)

    I could see better! And that is after only one treatment!

  3. Laura Smith

    My mother is on Warfrin could you have Chelation if your taking Warfrin – she is thinking it may take the Elequis drug out of her system after stopping it 1 year ago but still suffering from the side affects of that terrible drug ??? Could this be possible as l know it can clean lead out of the body

  4. Bob

    This from Quackwatch: “Graedons Blasted in Science-Based Medicine Blog”

    Harriet Hall, M.D., has severely criticized a preposterous article about chelation therapy published on the People’s Pharmacy Web site. The article, titled Doctors despise EDTA chelation but science supports its use, claimed that the Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy (TACT) demonstrated that EDTA chelation outperformed statins. But Dr. Hall concludes:

    That’s just wrong. It compares oranges to apples (truckloads of statin oranges to one wormy, rotten chelation apple). The benefits of statins have been established in multiple studies; the alleged benefits of chelation are based on a single fatally-flawed study. You can’t say chelation outperforms statins unless you have done a controlled study comparing the two. In fact, in the TACT study the subjects were all on standard therapy after a heart attack; most of them were taking statins. The Graedons don’t seem to understand the actual results of the study. The Graedons downplay the known risks of chelation and the serious flaws that make the study unreliable, and they provide anecdotes, saying that in combination with the TACT results, those anecdotes mean that some people do get benefit from EDTA chelation therapy. No, they don’t mean that at all, and the Graedons should know better. [Hall H. Misinterpreting TACT: No, chelation does not outperform statins for heart disease. Science-Based Medicine Blog, Dec 8, 2015] https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/misinterpreting-tact-no-chelation-does-not-outperform-statins-for-heart-disease/
    Note: I’m a fan of PP…just passing on the info.

  5. karl

    I think the authors of the study disagree with the Graedens. The abstract of the study says the following:

    “These results provide evidence to guide further research but are not sufficient to support the routine use of chelation therapy for treatment of patients who have had an MI.”

    And if you want to hear a critique of the study in general by clinical researchers, you may read it here:

  6. Carl
    New York

    I have read and reread the reference that you have cited: JAMA, March 27, 2013.

    NOWHERE in this study is there a statement advocating EDTA chelation “therapy” for heart disease! The results cited were not statistically significant at best. Shame on you.

    • Terry Graedon

      The results were modest but statistically significant. Here is a follow-up:
      As the researchers concluded: Among stable patients with a history of MI, use of an intravenous chelation regimen with disodium EDTA, compared with placebo, modestly reduced the risk of adverse cardiovascular outcomes, many of which were revascularization procedures. These results provide evidence to guide further research but are not sufficient to support the routine use of chelation therapy for treatment of patients who have had an MI.
      That is from the TACT study report: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23532240
      Similarly, an analysis of the results among subjects with diabetes: Post-myocardial infarction patients with diabetes mellitus aged ≥50 demonstrated a marked reduction in cardiovascular events with EDTA chelation. These findings support efforts to replicate these findings and define the mechanisms of benefit. However, they do not constitute sufficient evidence to indicate the routine use of chelation therapy for all post-myocardial infarction patients with diabetes mellitus.

  7. Walter
    Cypress Texas

    I’ve been doing Oral Chelation (EDTA) for years and seem to be doing okay.

  8. Betsy

    Can you provide more specifics on the high dose vitamin and mineral supplement used in the study?

  9. JimP
    Winchester, VA

    In the 1970s and 80s, I worked with a guy that developed severe angina and retired. When I bumped into him several years later, he had undergone chelation therapy and all his angina symptoms had ceased. I have been very interested in chelation since then and am glad to see there is now scientific evidence supporting it. We keep hearing about “evidence-based medicine”, but how can you develop evidence when you’re a pariah if you even attempt to investigate some disdained treatment? Remember how mainstream medicine in the past kept telling us the Atkins diet would clog our arteries and blow our cholesterol out of sight! And denied that a bacteria, H. pylori, could be a factor in stomach ulcers! And claimed there were no food allergies!

  10. Donna

    I’m wondering why the procedure is so expensive? Does it cost as much when used to treat lead or other heavy metal poisoning? I’m assuming that patients require careful monitoring–it is an invasive procedure, though no where as invasive as getting a stent or bypass. Still. . . doesn’t seem like it should cost so much.

  11. Sal
    Northern California Foothills

    I am very seriously considering trying chelation because, other than the out of pocket costs to me, I have no real alternatives. Other than arrhythmia issues, I appear to be a poster child for a healthy heart – perfect weight, exercise 6 days a week, great cholesterol counts (high HDL, low LDL), blood pressure in the 120’s, no chest pains or dizziness, a diet high in vegetables and fruits, low in meat consumption, etc. but a plaque scan done 5 years ago showed blockages in two arteries placing me in the 80 percentile and a follow up scan a few months ago show the plaque buildup has continued now placing me in the 90 percentile.

    My cardiologist tried placing me on different statins to “stabilize the plaque” but I am among those who suffer from side effects – specifically muscle weakness and pain. My father died in his late sixties from a heart attack and subsequent stroke so the doctor believes this to be a genetic problem. I broached the subject of the chelation study sited in your article but was told in no uncertain terms that this is quack medicine. My feeling is what do I have to lose other than some money and time. By the way, between the first plaque scan and the second, I went on the Linus Pauling regimen which obviously was a total bust.

  12. Dave

    I am trying chelation therapy because of wet AMD which was heading in the direction of vision loss. Two pieces of information got me thinking that wet AMD may be more of a vascular problem than a retina problem. The first info was a vascular surgeon who took his elderly parent for chelation and the parent’s wet AMD was supposedly corrected. The second was a study which showed, among other things, that anyone who had taken a calcium supplement at any time was more likely to experience wet AMD.

    I could not find an MD who would prescribe chelation for my situation, therefore due to the high cost of IV treatment, I decided to try EDTA suppositories. Even this cost is hard to explain; however, after 6 weeks of chelation, my wet AMD has impoved dramatically. I plan on continuing the suppositories for at least 6 more weeks. Placebo effect? Time will tell.

  13. Sabrina

    It sounds to me like the doctors are worried they may lose patients to wellness.

  14. MR

    If someone wants to clear the plaque from their arteries, from what I have read and heard the enzyme nattokinase is safe and effective. Also simple to use and relatively inexpensive. People cannot use it if they take statin drugs, though.

  15. ROGER
    north carolina

    At about age 50 I had total blockage behind my left knee and no pulse at my left ankle. On a treadmill at the gym there was a pain at my left shoulder blade after about 10 minutes of walking. Both of the neck arteries were over 50 percent blocked. A heart operation was coming soon. I heard about chelation and read about 3 books on EDTA chelation. After about 8 treatments the pain behind my left knee, when walking on the treadmill, went away as well as the angina pains behind my left shoulder blade. After 30 treatments my neck arteries were clear. Unfortunately treatments were stopped for 8-9 years and I had a heart attack. Later had heart bypass. Even later a second heart attack with four stents. What has EDTA chelation done for me??? Now age 74 it has helped me survive two heart attacks, heart bypass, and the stents. I can do my own yard work and out walk any man my age from the church. No memory problems. But, as someone with an obvious genetic blockage history, I do about 6-8 chelations per year to keep the arteries clear.

  16. Mary

    I am wondering which vitamins the subjects were given high doses of?

  17. dave

    A guy I worked with twenty-four years ago did chelation therapy and avoided a 3-4 way bypass!

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