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Chelation Therapy good for Diabetics?

Question: Is chelation therapy advisable for people with diabetes?

First of all, before giving any expert advice on this “alternative treatment” let us try to define chelation therapy. Chelation therapy is a series of intravenous infusions containing the organic and water soluble chemical disodium ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA), the same material used as an anticoagulant (anti-clotting) in blood count tubes. The term chelate, from the Greek chele for claw, refers to the “claw-like” structure of the EDTA. With this claw, EDTA binds metallic charged ions to form a stable ring structure. EDTA is also negatively charged, and therefore attracts and binds positively charged chemicals or ions.

The approved therapeutic use of this treatment is based on this mechanism of action; EDTA binds heavy metals such as lead therefore decreasing its potential to cause poisoning, tissue injury or damage. Chelation for high calcium levels (hypercalcemia) and heavy metal poisoning is an approved treatment approach that is proven effective.

Proponents claim that EDTA chelation therapy is effective against atherosclerosis (blockage of arteries) and many other serious health problems. A small group of physicians vessels by removing calcium from these plaques, leading to softening of these hardened arteries. They also claim that this treatment neutralizes free radicals and eliminates dangerous metals such as lead. This is claimed not only for patients with diabetes but for any person who is at risk or who have actually suffered a heart attack, stroke or even poor blood circulation in the legs (the so-called peripheral arterial disease).

Its use is widespread because patients have been led to believe that it is a valid alternative to established medical interventions such as coronary bypass surgery. However, there is no scientific evidence that this is so. It is also used to treat nonexistent”lead poisoning”, “mercury poisoning”, and other alleged toxic states that practitioners diagnose with tests on blood, urine, and/or hair.

In 1999, the Philippine Medical Association through the Council on Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) of the Philippine Heart Association issued a position paper on chelation therapy. The objective of this position paper is to clarify whether there is a scientific basis for this treatment, and whether it is safe and effective as a non-surgical de-clogging of arteries.

The position statement states that based on extensive review of literature, the Council on CAD found no scientific evidence that chelation therapy is beneficial in treating patients with atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease (or blockage of the arteries supplying blood to the heart), and peripheral vascular disease (blockage of the arteries to the legs/arms). The proponents claimed that more than 500,000 patients have safely benefitted from chelation therapy. However, the available evidence consists only of anecdotes, testimonials, and poorly designed experiments.

There are seven randomized studies on the use of EDTA for peripheral vascular disease (PVD) and the results revealed that EDTA chelation is no more effective than placebo in treating men and women with PVD. In short, for the treatment of PVD, there is no benefit at all and it is as good as a placebo or no treatment. Likewise, there are no published randomized controlled trials evaluating its use in patients with blocked arteries to the heart (CAD) or cerebrovascular disease (stroke).

Proponents also claim that chelation has been demonstrated to be safe. One article even declares that six million chelation treatments have been given safely over the last 40 years. Chelation therapy is not risk free. Cases of fatal kidney damage have been reported, as well as several other complications including: hypocalcemia (low calcium) leading to cardiac arrhythmias (irregularities in heart beat); decreased blood clotting ability with abnormal bleeding; hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and insulin shock; severe hemolytic anemia due to damage to the red blood cells; dermatitis or skin inflammation with itchiness and generalized eczema; and extensive clumping of platelets in the blood of some patients with atherosclerosis and other chronic diseases.

The conclusion of the position paper is that there is no scientific evidence to demonstrate that chelation therapy is beneficial in treating atherosclerotic heart disease and peripheral vascular disease. Furthermore, using this form of unproven treatment may deprive patients from receiving well established treatment modalities of proven efficacy. It is also expensive and is not devoid of side effects. Based on numerous reviews of the world’s medical literature, these same conclusions have been reached by numerous medical organizations worldwide.

In the United States alone, the following agencies have issued similar positions: the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Institutes of Health, National Research Council, American Medical Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Heart Association, American College of Physicians, American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American College of Cardiology.

So to answer the question that has been posted, NO there is no benefit to its use for people with diabetes or for any patient with blockage of the blood vessels to the heart, legs or the brain. It is NOT EFFECTIVE as a non-surgical declogging of arteries which have been blocked by fat deposits. It is also an unsafe treatment with the potential for serious side effects and may even lead to death. And finally, always seek your doctor’s advice when contemplating new treatments for your diabetes and its complications, whether these are standard or alternative therapies.

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