In addition to the formation of free radicals in the body, you are exposed to them in the environment. They are found in cigarette smoke in high amounts, and also in polluted air. (Large numbers of people who do not smoke have been found to have significant levels of cotinine, a nicotine derivative, in their blood, in most cases even if they do not live with a smoker. ) Free radicals are produced by radiation and rancid oils, by hydrogenated oil such as those found in margarine and shortening, and by ultraviolet light, and many therapeutic drugs increase metabolism and the action of liver enzymes that can increase free radicals.
Heavy metals cause direct toxicity to tissues, poisoning enzyme systems and especially affecting the nervous system. One of the most interesting properties of EDTA is the removal of lead and other metals. Iron is a transition metal, and it accumulates in the body with age and dietary excess, especially from meat. Excess accumulation of iron leads to the production of free radicals. Heavy metals are directly toxic. Removal of iron and heavy metals with chelation is thought to help prevent and reverse the tissue damage of a variety of diseases, including vascular disease.
Free radicals, with their high energy levels, are thought to contribute to the development of heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and certain immune system disorders. A study in Zurich, Switzerland showed a markedly lower incidence of cancer among patients who had received chelation therapy. This makes a strong case for chelation inhibiting free radicals.
For protection from free radicals, your body has a number of defenses. You produce enzymes that are free radical scavengers, such as superoxide dismutase, glutathione peroxidase, and catalase. These require trace mineral cofactors such as zinc, manganese, selenium, and copper. Many other nutrients are also anti-oxidant free-radical scavengers. These include vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, bioflavonoids and other plant pigments, coenzyme Q10, and sulfur-containing amino acids such as cysteine and methionine. These protect you from aging and degeneration. A comprehensive approach to treatment is more effective than any one treatment alone. This includes diet, exercise and stress management, as well as dietary supplements.
The nutritional components of a treatment program using EDTA chelation play several roles. One is the above-mentioned supportive role in the free-radical scavenging activity of chelation. Other nutrients act to help with vascular disease in different ways. For example, the B-vitamins folic acid, pyridoxine (B6), cobalamin (B12), and betaine help to lower blood levels of homocysteine, a metabolite implicated in higher rates of vascular disease. Coenzyme Q10 also helps directly with heart muscle function and lowering blood pressure. Hawthorne berry extracts act similarly. Supplements of the amino acid taurine help to increase the strength of the heart muscle.
Another role of dietary supplements is to replace those that are removed by the chelation itself. Because EDTA binds with minerals, it removes some of those that you want to keep. Chelation treatments remove large amounts of zinc and manganese, and these need to be replaced with supplements in order to assure the safety of chelation treatment. Chelation reduces vitamin B6 levels, and supplements help are essential.
Although most patients are treated with chelation for vascular disease, it has many other benefits, as well as a value as preventive medicine. Specific benefits are found in diabetic arterial disease, macular degeneration, decreased mental function from vascular disease, osteoporosis, intermittent claudication (leg pain on exercise), scleroderma, and other conditions.