I was recently asked to respond to a question on Quora regarding autism and chelation. The responses that had been provided to the question were combative to say the least, and that, along with the fact that we frequently receive calls at our practice from individuals asking whether or not we offer chelation therapy, compelled me to write a more detailed response based on scientific evidence and my professional experience.
The question that sparked so much debate pertained to the effectiveness of heavy metal chelation in cases of autism. As I mentioned, our front desk frequently takes calls from people inquiring about chelation. Just two weeks ago, we had two inquirers call within 30 minutes of each other seeking chelation therapy on behalf of loved ones.
It’s not surprising that we receive calls regarding chelation so frequently. Parents with children who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders love their kids and are desperately searching for a viable solution, a promising therapy, that has the potential to help their child. Before making a decision to put your child through chelation, however, it’s important to educate yourself and make sure that you understand the unbiased facts.
Before making a decision to put your child through chelation, however, it’s important to educate yourself and make sure that you understand the unbiased facts.
As a part of what’s known in the medical field as “informed consent,” all doctors should provide you with the potential benefits and drawbacks/risks of any proposed therapy or procedure so that you can make an educated decision. As may have been your experience, however, visits are sometimes rushed with various practitioners and some of this information gets lost in the shuffle. That being said, here is what we know about chelation and, more specifically, chelation within the context of autism.
What Exactly is Chelation Anyway?
Chelation is a process through which a chelating agent such as EDTA (ethylene diamine tetra-acetic acid) or DMSA (Dimercaptosuccinic acid, also known as succimer or succimic acid) is administered, most commonly via IV or taken by mouth, in an attempt to remove heavy metals from the body. Chelating agents bind to the metals and remove them from the body through the urine and/or bile.
Why all the Controversy?
Chelation is generally an accepted treatment for heavy metal poisoning, but its use for removing metals that are found in the body at less-than-toxic levels or for any other reason, is hotly disputed. This is because, while chelating agents do attach to heavy metals in the body, some also strongly bind to minerals and amino acids such as calcium, iron, copper, and cysteine and remove them from the body as well. When calcium is removed from the body by a chelating agent, blood calcium levels fall outside of the normal range. This unwanted effect of chelation has led to death in a few cases.
Although the chelating agent used in one case is inconclusive, the agent that appears to be responsible for the remaining deaths is disodium EDTA. DMSA binds calcium as well, but not as strongly as disodium EDTA and the administration of calcium EDTA does not appear to have the same effect as disodium EDTA as it tends to result in higher blood calcium levels, not decreased levels.
Although the chelating agent used in one case is inconclusive, the agent that appears to be responsible for the remaining deaths is disodium EDTA.
EDTA chelates metals from the bones while DMSA chelates metals from soft tissue. In some individuals with high metal levels, EDTA has been found to successfully remove metals like lead and cadmium from the bones, but has led to these toxic metals being deposited in the soft tissue. Because of this phenomenon, chelation with EDTA alone may not always be the appropriate route for treatment.
This content was originally published here.