On call: Chelation therapy: The rationale is hopeful, the results are not.

On call

Chelation therapy: The rationale is hopeful, the results are not.

Q. I know you have expressed reservations about alternative therapy from time to time. I realize that it's a tricky issue for doctors, but I find the idea appealing. In particular, I'd like your opinion about chelation therapy. I'm a 68-year-old diabetic with angina.

A. The best approach to alternative therapy is not to accept it or reject it, but to study it. Thousands of studies have been published, but only a tiny fraction meets the high standards of 21st-century medical science. Unfortunately, substandard research does more harm than good, since all-but-meaningless "clinical re-search" is often hyped by people who stand to profit from a broad array of goods and services.

Chelation (kee-lay-shun) therapy is an exception — not because it works but because it has been studied. The theory is based on the long-established fact that calcium is present in many advanced plaques of atherosclerosis. In fact, calcium can account for up to 20% of the volume of large plaques. Chelation therapy removes calcium from the blood by administering infusions of EDTA, a chemical that binds calcium. The theory holds that EDTA will also remove calcium from plaques into the blood, thus reducing blockages that cause angina and heart attacks.

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