Oral chelation is a popular do-it-yourself treatment for a number of disorders. Government agencies and medical experts, however, warn people currently treating themselves or considering treatment to be cautious. Very few illnesses are improved through oral chelation therapy and all forms of chelation pose significant health risks.
Accurate oral chelation information is essential to ensuring the safety of those seeking or receiving treatment. Product labels and promotions are not reliable sources of chelation facts. Deliberate attempts to mislead consumers about the potential risks and benefits of oral chelation products have made manufacturers and distributors the target of U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) efforts to stop misuse of chelation.
Chelation is a medical treatment used to detoxify the blood, tissue and organs of toxic substances. Chelating substances (chelators) are administered by mouth in the form of pills or liquids. Chelators search for poisonous metals the body is unable to eliminate due to their unfamiliar shape. The chelators bind to these metals, forming a new shape that the body recognises. The new shape is then processed by the kidneys and disposed of through urination.
Oral chelation is less potent than intravenous chelation, but the procedure comes with its own potential applications, risks and benefits. Persons considering oral chelation therapy should consult their health care providers to ensure that chelation is an appropriate treatment for their condition. The FDA warns that misuse of the treatment has resulted in death.
Oral chelation products are readily available online and in alternative medicine shops, however, this accessibility is misleading. The FDA has never approved non-prescription oral chelation products for any medicinal use. Prescription oral chelation drugs have been approved by the agency, but uses are limited to a small number of potentially fatal conditions, including hypercalcaemia, lead poisoning and specific heart conditions.
Oral chelation products are available without prescription, but consumers beware. Many popular uses of these products, even those recommended by manufacturers, have not been approved by the FDA. Safety alerts regarding potentially fatal results of off-label use have been issued by the FDA and action has been taken by the agency to prevent manufacturers from misleading the public.
The FDA website shares a warning letter issued by the agency to a distributor of one oral chelation product, Chelorex, in which the FDA orders the company to immediately remove unproven claims regarding the product's health benefits from its website. Promoting a product as a treatment for any medical condition without prior approval by the FDA is illegal and those products are subject to seizure by the agency. The FDA's effort to prevent companies from disseminating misleading oral chelation information is ongoing.
Oral chelation products are effective in treating only a few conditions. Blood calcium toxicity, lead poisoning and specific heart conditions may be improved by the use of chelation therapy. However, even these FDA approved uses are controversial. Chelation therapy in lead poisoning, for example, is reported by the American Academy of Pediatrics as effective emergency intervention for reducing blood lead levels. Clinical Trials, by contrast, notes that this use of chelation is not widespread among health care professionals who await further proof of health benefits to lead poisoning victims.
The dangers associated with oral chelation therapy are countless and severe. Unapproved uses may result in worsening of condition, the emergence of new illnesses, malnutrition and even death. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports chelation-related deaths have occurred in Texas, Pennsylvania and Oregon.
FDA-approved prescription chelators have also resulted in critical illness and fatality. Treating hypercalcaemia with chelation can result in hypocalcaemia, an opposite and equally deadly blood calcium condition. Some conditions, such as lead poisoning, can be worsened by oral chelation therapy if not administered correctly and in conjunction with environmental changes.
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