Chelation for Antiaging: The Pharmacist's Role

JANUARY 01, 2005
Ross Pelton, RPh, PhD, CCN

Removing toxic metals from the body is one of the most important antiaging therapies available. The results from many scientific studies indicate that an increased accumulation (body burden) of toxic metals—such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and arsenic—increases the risk for common diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder.

Recently, nonprescription products for removing toxic metals from the body have entered the marketplace. They present an important new opportunity for pharmacists who counsel their customers about important health matters.

Removing toxic metals from the body is known as chelation therapy. The term chelation comes from the Greek word chele, which means "claw." Chelating agents are substances that can "claw"or bind to toxic metals so that they can be excreted through the feces and/or urine. Engaging in chelation therapy to remove toxic metals is a critically important step in slowing down one's aging process and extending the length and quality of one's life. The purpose of this article is to report on and review some of the newly available OTC chelation products.

EDTA Chelation

Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) is a synthetic amino acid that is recognized by the FDA as an approved substance to treat lead poisoning. Intravenous (IV) EDTA chelation therapy is very effective. For example, an 18- year follow-up of patients who had undergone a series of EDTA chelation treatments revealed a 90% reduction in cancer deaths. One of 59 treated patients died of cancer (1.7%), whereas 30 of 172 (17.6%) nontreated matched control patients died of cancer.1

IV EDTA chelation therapy has been available for years, but a series of 20 or 30 IV EDTA sessions is an expensive ($100-$125/treatment) and time-consuming (3-4 hours/treatment) process that can be administered only by physicians. Fortunately, a number of effective OTC toxic-metal detoxification products have become available recently.


EDTA is not well absorbed orally. An OTC product named Detoxamin, which is a time-released EDTA rectal suppository, recently entered the marketplace, however. Rectal absorption is very efficient. When inserted rectally at bedtime, each Detoxamin suppository gradually delivers 750 mg of calcium EDTA into systemic circulation throughout the night.

Two Detoxamin human clinical trials have been completed. Although their results have not been published, both have reported a high level of success at removing lead. One trial was a pilot study conducted in 2003 at the Living Longer Institute in Cincinnati, Ohio. The other was a trial conducted on the removal of lead in Puerto Rican children with known elevated lead levels. Urine and fecal analysis from one of these human trials also reported the excretion of significant levels of mercury, aluminum, and arsenic.


DMSA is chemically known as meso- 2,3-dimercaptosuccinic acid. It is available commercially in a product named Captomer, from Thorne Research. DMSA is another nonprescription chelator of toxic metals. It is an orally administered, water-soluble agent with a wide therapeutic range and low toxicity, which make it one of the most effective chelating compounds available.2 Because DMSA-chelated toxic metals are excreted in the feces, it is important that patients using DMSA have regular bowel movements. Hence, individuals who are constipated should not use DMSA until normal bowel elimination is restored.

Numerous studies have been published that document Captomer's success at removing toxic metals. It is available in 100-and 250-mg capsules. There are several different protocols for using Captomer. Other companies also offer oral DMSA capsules.


Glutathione performs 2 critical functions. It is one of the body's most effective agents for binding with and detoxifying toxic metals, and it also functions as a powerful antioxidant to reduce free radical damage. Hence, substances that increase glutathione levels will help protect the body against toxic metals. Nutrients such as selenium,3 lipoic acid,4 cysteine,5 and/ or N-acetylcysteine6 and the herb milk thistle7 are each known for their ability to increase glutathione levels in the body and to enhance the removal of toxic metals.

Other Oral Chelation Formulations

Other formulations are now being offered by many companies. These formulations usually contain EDTA along with supportive agents such as chlorella, garlic, malic acid, and other nutrients. One product, Essential Daily Defense, was formulated by Garry Gordon, MD, DO, who is the father of the modern chelation movement. Vitamin Research Products offers Oral ChelatoRx; Life Enhancement offers EDTA Chelator Complex; and the Life Extension Foundation offers Pure-Gar w/ EDTA.

Opportunities for Pharmacists

Serious toxic-metal problems must be managed by an experienced physician. It is becoming increasingly recognized, however, that virtually everyone has a chronic accumulation of toxic metals in the body, which contributes to health problems and accelerates the aging process. Pharmacists who take the time to become knowledgeable about the correct use of OTC detoxification products can provide a much-needed service. At the same time, guiding customers on detoxification protocols also can become a new source of income for pharmacists who charge for their consultation time.

Dr. Pelton is director of education at Integrative Health Resources Inc.

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