Chelation Therapy in Medicine

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Chelation therapy is an intravenous treatment designed to bind heavy metals in the body and cause them to be excreted in urine. Lead, mercury and cadmium are derived from the soil in minute quantities and have an effect on some of our tissues by interfering with normal oxygen utilization. Proponents claim that chelation therapy treats coronary artery disease and other illnesses that may be linked to damage from free radicals, reactive molecules that are associated with metal toxicity. This method of treatment has been advocated for many years by a small group of physicians, many of whom had been persecuted because of lack of approval of the treatment. Some had even lost their medical licenses.

Over the years, they persisted and had constantly tried to get cardiovascular specialists to carry out a clinical study because they were convinced that their clinical and laboratory observations were important. No such study had materialized and so they got together to perform a study in their individual offices, combining their results. This study was termed TACT (Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy). The results of the study were reviewed by Academia. It was found that it demonstrated a significant reduction in a combined primary endpoint of death, myocardial infarction (heart attack), stroke, coronary revascularization (heart surgery) or hospitalization for angina (heart pain). In diabetic patients the benefit was more extreme. The authors, from Columbia University Division of Cardiology and Mount Sinai Medical Center, reported that EDTA chelation may be a well-tolerated and effective treatment for patients after heart attacks, suggesting that further studies were required. Subsequently, a review summarized evidence from two lines of research previously thought to be unrelated: the unexpected positive results of TACT and a body of data showing that accumulation of biologically active metals such as lead and cadmium is an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease. They concluded by presenting a brief overview of a newly planned National Institutes of Health trial, TACT 2 in an attempt to replicate the findings of TACT 1. Two authors from Columbia University Division of Cardiology reported that they were seeking participating sites for TACT 2.

Iron Chelation

It is fairly well known that a common cause of anemia is iron deficiency, treated by taking a supplement of an iron containing medication. What few people are aware of is that an ingestion of too much iron, like the heavy metals mentioned above, will cause the same kind of interference with oxygen utilization. It is just another example that too little is as bad as too much. Although treatment of iron deficient anemia is seldom a cause of iron overload when administered by a physician, perhaps the major cause is from repeated blood transfusions given to people that have problems in synthesizing hemoglobin, or a disease that causes red cell destruction. The method of removing iron that has been deposited in tissues is by chelation, using one of several agents administered orally. This promises a reduction in associated morbidity and mortality.

The Use of Thiamine in Chelation

I remember reading an article in the veterinary literature some years ago. Because of a sick cow, a farmer had called a veterinarian who had recognized the symptoms of thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency. When given an injection of the vitamin the symptoms in the cow had disappeared but they had subsequently returned and the veterinarian was asked to come again. Thinking this was a strange recurrence, the doctor had the presence of mind to search the field where the cow had been grazing. He had found an old trunk in a corner of the field that was partly covered with lead paint and which the cow had been licking. Lead has a sweet taste and the veterinarian concluded that this was the cause of the thiamine deficiency. In a study using rats, calcium disodium EDTA was more effective than thiamine in enhancing the urinary excretion of lead in restoring lead induced biochemical alterations. However, the combination of the drug and thiamine enhanced the beneficial effect and was particularly effective in reducing the brain concentration of lead.

In lead loaded sheep the combination of EDTA and thiamine administration was better than EDTA or thiamine given singly. It was concluded however that thiamine, even by itself, does increase lead excretion via bile and urine, a beneficial effect that has not been followed up since. The influence of dietary protein deficiency on the effects of exposure to lead or its combination with copper was investigated in rats. The simultaneous supplementation of copper reduced some of the lead-induced alterations and body uptake of lead more efficiently in animals fed a normal diet than in those fed a protein-deficient diet. Note that a small amount of copper and a healthy protein intake in the diet appear to protect the body from the harmful effects of lead, enhancing again the importance of diet in preventive medicine.

Heavy Metal Toxicity in Autism

Most people are aware that autism is in epidemic form in America. The evidence is rapidly accumulating that this disease is another example of brain energy deficiency. It is marked by a complex interaction between environmental factors, genetic predisposition and energy availability, making it difficult to state that there is a single causative etiology. There is evidence that heavy metal deposition has a part to play in producing oxidative stress. We came across a family in which the mother was a recovered alcoholic. She had two children, a boy and a girl, both of whom had symptoms typical of autistic spectrum disorder. Both children had unusual concentrations of arsenic in the urine whose source was completely unknown. Erythrocyte transketolase studies (a test for thiamine deficiency) were intermittently abnormal, coinciding with alternating improvement from diet restriction and supplementary vitamin therapy. Their symptoms quickly relapsed after ingestion of sugar, milk, or wheat. We hypothesized that oxidative stress, related to the presence of arsenic, combined with genetic predisposition and malnutrition provided the intermittent relapse and recovery in both of these children.

Energy Metabolism

Energy deficiency has been implicated many times in posts on this website and it is hypothesized that it is the root cause of disease, coupled with genetic risk and the variability of stress factors. Because of its vital importance in so many aspects of energy production and distribution, thiamine seems to be emerging as a unique therapeutic modality. Yes, it is true that if a human genome is 100% intact and the diet reaches perfection, health would remain intact throughout life. But because of the variability of genetic risk, the unpredictability of stress factors and the imperfection in diet, disease has become common in the modern world. In my book “A Nutritional Approach to a Revised Model for Medicine”, I compared the hedonism of the advanced civilization in the ancient Roman Empire with that of the hedonism that exists in our society today. The Romans kept their wines in lead glazed jars and the lead was leached out into the wine, giving it a sweet taste. Their symptoms were common and completely unrecognized for what they represented.

We suggest that thiamine deficiency would enter into the equation by a method that would be completely different from what is commonly being appreciated in our society today, the hedonism associated with the ingestion of sweets. Chronic mild lead poisoning, particularly if associated with thiamine deficiency, would lead to many symptoms that are exactly the same as those experienced by millions of people today who are suffering unknowingly and in many cases unfortunately unrecognized for what they represent. Only very few people take advantage of this scientifically supported information, no matter how many books are written or how many lectures are delivered. However, since we all have been educated to take pills in the treatment of our symptoms, perhaps an emphasis on vitamin supplements instead of drugs might be a simple answer. Over and over, this website has emphasized high calorie malnutrition as an insidious and prolonged method of inducing a variety of effects in the brain that result in just as much of a variety of symptoms.

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