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Question : I get mail promoting the great benefits of chelation therapy. The claim is that it removes calcium and other metals from the walls of arteries.
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Howard LeWine, M.D., is chief editor of Internet Publishing, Harvard Health Publications. He is a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. LeWine has been a primary care internist and teacher of internal medicine since 1978.

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March 01, 2012
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A:

Chelation therapy uses chemicals that combine with metals or other toxins in the body, creating less harmful compounds that are discharged in the urine. It’s the standard way of treating serious cases of lead poisoning and certain medical conditions such as iron overload.

For several years, chelation with a chemical called EDTA has been promoted as a sort of “vascular Drano” that will remove harmful metals from your arteries. And this would lower your risk for heart attack, stroke, and other blood vessel diseases. It’s an interesting idea. But so far, it hasn’t panned out. Most studies have not shown benefits from chelation therapy.

Chelation can have serious side effects. Some include kidney damage, dangerous heart rhythms and seizures.

You asked about vinegar. EDTA stands for ethylene diamine tetra-acetic acid. It’s a synthetic compound with a little “pocket” that attracts metals. That’s why it is used to pull lead and other metals out of the bloodstream. Acetic acid is the naturally produced chemical that gives vinegar its distinctive sour smell and taste. Although EDTA is an acid, and part of its structure resembles acetic acid (thus the name), it’s really an entirely different compound.

I suppose vinegar might have some health benefits. But there is no reason to believe that it could remove metals from the walls of arteries.

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