Does chelation therapy == snakeoil?
July 20, 2006 10:13 PM   Subscribe

Is chelation, as a therapy for atherosclerosis, only recommended by quacks?

I've poked around on the internet for information but it looks like the general consensus is that it's completely ineffective at best and dangerous at worst.

Has anyone here had chelation therapy or known anyone that has had it?

Does anyone who has any sort of medical background know anything about chelation therapy for atherosclerosis? It looks like the NIH is doing a five year study on it now. Does anyone have the inside scoop on how the study is going?
posted by bshort to Health & Fitness (7 answers total)
My prior answer about chelation, which contains most everything I know about the topic.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:35 PM on July 20, 2006

For about nine years now, I've been seeing a doctor who does quite a bit of chelation for atherosclerosis and other conditions. While I have no experience with the treatment in question (my arteries are fine; my cholesterol too.), I have an extremely high opinion of this woman and consider her a good source of information on all things medically alternative. She's usually extremely busy, but she might be able to answer some questions for you. Her practice is only local, of course, and nowhere near you, but if you'd like her contact info, I'd be happy to email it to you.
posted by Clay201 at 10:55 PM on July 20, 2006

IANAD, but I would suspect anyone trying to use chelation for atherosclerosis to be a quack.

The reason heavy metals are dangerous is that our bodies have no way to excrete them. For anything like that (lead, mercury, cadmium, or things like chloroform) the only solution is to store it in the liver and similar tissues, and that's why they're cumulative poisons, permitting only a certain dose per lifetime.

Chelation therapy uses certain chemicals which will bond to specific heavy metals and put a chemical "tag" on them which our bodies can seize and excrete. Thus they represent a way to treat heavy metal poisoning.

But atherosclerosis has nothing to do with heavy metal poisoning, and chelation therapy is not a general purpose "Get rid of everything negative" tool. Unless there's some entirely different pharmacological effect of the chemicals involved which also clears out plaque in arteries, which seems highly unlikely, then at best it should accomplish nothing. At worst it could cause you a lot of harm, because those chemicals are not massively wonderful (as Ikkyu2's linked comment demonstrates).
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:37 PM on July 20, 2006

It's a bit of a fringe subject, but to it's credit iron chelation does actually have a bit of legitimacy over complete snake oil when it comes to the subject of atherosclerosis. The concept is essentially born out of epidemiological data that connected high iron stores with atherosclerosis, and some basic science that suggested that iron may interfere with the endothelial response to nitric oxide -- a well known signaling pathway that leads to vasodilation of blood vessels.

So far however, there is little to no evidence to support chelation for this purpose (or any other purpose except true heavy metal toxicity). The two best studies1,2 so far rely on small sample sizes and questionable methodology, and their results are conflicting. Consequently I would be extremely wary of anyone offering this treatment. Whether they're medically trained or not, they are not practicing evidence-based medicine by current standards.
posted by drpynchon at 12:37 AM on July 21, 2006

I've poked around on the internet for information but it looks like the general consensus is that it's completely ineffective at best and dangerous at worst.

Looks like you already found your answer.
posted by antifuse at 2:58 AM on July 21, 2006

Response by poster: Looks like you already found your answer.

Well, possibly. I really wanted to find out if anyone here had first-hand experience with the procedure or if any of the doctors / medical professionals here knew anything further about the treatment.
posted by bshort at 4:22 AM on July 21, 2006

my aunt swears by it for her Autistic children... I went on it for a little while, but didn't really notice any benefits to it.
posted by jonathanstrange at 10:12 PM on July 30, 2006

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