The Nation's Health + [health]

Chelation: Would you bet your life on chelation?


Hugh's heart scan score was 1751, an awful score. Recall that, at this level of scoring, Hugh's heart attack and death risk is 25% per year.

Obviously, serious efforts need to be taken. In this situation, much as I despise drug companies and what they represent and their heavy-handed ways, I'm more inclined to resort directly to prescription agents, as well as our nutritional supplements and other strategies. The price of dilly-dallying could be his death.

Hugh and his wife asked about chelation. Now, there are five studies I'm aware of that have tried to examine the value of chelation. None showed any measurable benefit, though all were rather weak in design and small in number of participants. One study, for instance, looked at whether anginal chest pains were provoked any later after chelation. Another looked at whether calf claudication, or calf cramping while walking due to artery blockages in the leg arteries, was delayed on treadmill testing after chelation. No benefit was observed: no delay in provocation of angina, no delay in provocation of claudication.

However, the adherents of chelation have been vehement enough that the NIH has funded a large, multi-center study to settle the question once and for all. Best I can tell, the study has not been contaminated by any drug company involvement. It is meant to be an unbiased, objective study of whether chelation has any value.

My personal experience in patients who underwent chelation is that, despite spending hundreds or thousands of dollars, plaque grew at the expected rate--no effect at all.

None of this constitutes proof of efficacy nor proof of lack of efficacy. We will need to await the NIH trial to have better information.

Should Hugh bet his life on chelation? I advised him strongly against it. At this point, the only reason I can see to pursue chelation would be faith--that is, expectation based not on fact, but on hope.