A Food Additive with Many Remarkable Properties
By Ward Dean, MD
In the previous issue of Vitamin Research News, intravenous EDTA chelation therapy was discussed. This article continues to briefly describe a new intravenous approach with EDTA, to expand on EDTA’s protective and enhancing effects as a food additive in foods and dietary supplements, as well as some clinically tested uses of oral EDTA. The Food and Drug Administration has approved the synthetic amino acid, ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid (EDTA), as a pharmaceutical agent for the treatment of lead and other heavy metal poisoning or exposure. In older literature, the FDA also approved EDTA as being “possibly effective in occlusive vascular disorders…arrhythmias and atrioventricular induction defects…and in the treatment of pathologic conditions to which calcium tissue deposits or hypercalcemia may contribute other than those listed above.” (1) These “possibly effective” indications were removed from FDA-approved literature in the late 1970s for reasons known only to the FDA. Fortunately, physicians are not limited solely to FDA-approved indications and can prescribe approved drugs for whatever “unapproved” conditions they find them to be effective. Consequently, since EDTA is approved for the treatment of heavy metal poisoning (especially lead), many physicians continue to use pharmaceutical EDTA with great benefit in many diseases and conditions other than their officially approved uses. There are two medical associations whose physician members are trained in the administration of intravenous EDTA for the treatment and prevention of atherosclerosis, heavy metal toxicity, and other chronic degenerative diseases. These organizations are the American College for Advancement in Medicine (800-532-3688) and the International Association for Integrative Medicine (IAIM) (formerly, the Great Lakes Association of Clinical Medicine [GLACM]) (800-286-6013). Members of these organizations and their patients find that EDTA chelation therapy is highly effective as an alternative, or in addition, to more traditional/widely accepted approaches such as angioplasty or bypass surgery.
Low Dose, Rapid IV Injection
Although physicians in the US generally use doses of EDTA ranging from 1.5 to 3.0 grams, Dr. Walter Blumer in Switzerland has developed a protocol using calcium EDTA intravenously. This form of EDTA is non-irritating, and can be administered in less than five minutes. Dr. Blumer’s technique is being adopted by a growing number of physicians in the US.
Beneficial Uses of Oral EDTA in Cardiovascular Disease
In addition to the controversial but widespread recognition of EDTA’s intravenous benefits are its less well-known clinical uses when administered orally. Early clinical studies with EDTA reported loss of fat in rats, reduction of cholesterol in rabbits, and reduced blood pressure in humans. Consequently, a study of the effects of oral EDTA on patients with atherosclerosis and/or hypertension was conducted on 10 patients. Four of these patients had hypertension, four had angina pectoris, one had peripheral vascular disease (intermittent claudication), and one was recovering from a heart attack. All were treated with one gm of oral EDTA daily for three months. Seven of the ten patients experienced significant reductions in their cholesterol levels, and blood pressure was reduced in all ten. The most marked change occurred in the patient with intermittent claudication, whose cholesterol dropped from 278 mg per 100 ml to 128! This patient also reported improved exercise tolerance, and the researchers found improved pulsations in the extremities. The four patients with angina pectoris also all reported improvement. (2) In another series of 20 patients who suffered from hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, angina or peripheral vascular disease, one gram of EDTA was administered orally every day for 3 months. During that short time, elevated cholesterol levels in nine of the patients dropped to within the normal range. No adverse results were experienced by any of the patients. Angina attacks were reduced in frequency and severity in five individuals. One person who previously had suffered a heart attack and experienced several angina attacks daily thereafter, obtained complete relief. (3)
In another study, two patients with extremely elevated cholesterol were treated with oral EDTA. One patient took EDTA in progressively large doses ranging from 500 mg to 4 gm daily for one year, and the other took 1,000 mg daily for three years (Fig. 1.). Although the first patient suffered a heart attack after three years of therapy, she recovered uneventfully, and had reduced angina pains and improved sense of well-being with continued use of EDTA. The second patient—in addition to hypercholesterolemia—had a condition known as xanthomatosis (yellowish papules in the skin, related to elevated blood lipids). She not only experienced dramatic reductions in her cholesterol levels with oral EDTA treatment, but her skin lesions completely resolved. (4) Other laboratory studies (including kidney and liver function) remained normal throughout the study for both patients. This is further confirmation of the safety of oral EDTA, considering that doses as high as 4 gm daily were consumed. Further support of the anti-atherosclerotic effects of oral EDTA are provided by Italian researchers who found that two grams of oral EDTA daily were effective in reducing blood cholesterol. (5) Scientists at Wayne State University quantified reversal in atherosclerotic plaque in rabbits that were treated with daily subcutaneous EDTA injections. (6)
EDTA’s Multiple Uses as a Food Additive
In addition to its remarkable pharmaceutical uses, the FDA has also approved EDTA as a food additive that is generally recognized as safe (GRAS). EDTA’s array of biochemical properties make it extremely valuable as a food additive. It has the ability to: (1) bind with many metals; (2) act synergistically with other antioxidants to stabilize fats and oils; (3) prevent discoloration of potato products; (4) stabilize vitamins; (5) prevent discoloration of fish and shellfish; (6) prevent flavor changes in milk; (7) inhibit the thickening of stored condensed milk; (8) enhance the foaming properties of reconstituted skim milk; (9) prevent color changes of scrambled eggs prepared from egg powder; (10) preserve canned legumes; (11) prevent gushing in beer; (12) promote flavor retention and delay loss of carbonation in soft drinks; (13) prevent oxidation of meat products; and (14) prevent discoloration of canned fruits and vegetables. (7,8) In fact, EDTA’s use in foods is so widespread that its presence in bloody evidence even created questions during the O.J. Simpson trial as to its source-i.e., from food or from blood previously drawn as evidence—since EDTA is also used as an anticoagulant in blood used for laboratory studies.
Absorption of Oral EDTA
In 1954, Dr. Harry Foreman and his colleagues performed a landmark study to determine how much orally administered EDTA the body absorbs. (9) The scientists found that the body absorbs about five percent of orally consumed EDTA (Fig. 2, pg. 3) and that it can take up to three days for the EDTA to be totally excreted. If someone consumed nutritional supplements that contained 1,000 mg of EDTA (used as a stabilizer of the ingredients in the supplement), then we can assume from Dr. Foreman’s research that about 50 mg will be absorbed each day and that 1,500 mg will be absorbed each month. That equates to almost the same amount of EDTA administered in one intravenous chelation treatment using the low-dose optimum protocol of Drs. Born and Geurkink (10) that was described in last month’s Vitamin Research News.
Consequently, those unable to obtain intravenous chelation therapy due to financial, occupational, geographical or other restraints, or who wish to undergo a less-intensive preventive approach may be able to obtain many of the same benefits of intravenous chelation therapy by consuming food-additive EDTA that is used as a stabilizer in food supplements. Many physicians are augmenting weekly or monthly intravenous infusions with daily oral EDTA. Because of concern that long-term use of EDTA might result in depletion of certain elements, Drs. Ira Manville and Robin Moser recommended that a potent vitamin and mineral formula be administered during treatment with EDTA. (11) VRP recommends that the supplemental minerals should be taken with meals and not with the EDTA formula because of the possibility of EDTA binding to nutritional as well as to unwanted metallic elements. Dr. Garry Gordon at one time agreed with this approach, and recommended that EDTA would be most effective when taken on an empty stomach. (12) (1 hour before or 2-3 hours after a meal.). He has more recently altered this view, and now believes that EDTA can be taken at any time with any supplement. (13)
1. Calcium disodium edetate and disodium edetate. Federal Register, Volume 35, No. 8, Tuesday, January 13, 1970, 585-587.
2. Perry, H. Mitchell, Schroeder, Henry A. Depression of cholesterol levels in human plasma following ethylenediamine tetracetate and hydralazine. J Chronic Diseases, 1955, 2: 5, 520-532.
3. Schroeder, Henry A. A practical method for the reduction of plasma cholesterol in man. J Chronic Diseases, 1956, 4: 461-468.
4. Perry, Jr., and Camel, G., Some effects of CaNa2EDTA on plasma cholesterol and urinary zinc in man, in: Metal Binding in Medicine, by Marvin J. Seven and L. Audrey Johnson (eds), 1960, J.B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia, 209-215.
5. Mariani, B., Bisetti, A., and Romeo, V. Blood-cholesterol-lowering action of the sodium salt of calciumethylenediaminotetraacetic acid. Gazz Intern Med e Chir, 1957. 62: 1812-1823.
6. Wartman, A., Lampe, T.L., McCann, D.S., and Boyle, A.J. Plaque reversal with MgEDTA in experimental atherosclerosis: Elastin and collagen metabolism. J Atherosclerosis Res, 1967, 7: 331-341.
7. Aamoth, H.L., and Butt, F.J. Maintaining food quality with chelating agents. Annals New York Academy of Sciences, 1960, 526-531.
8. Furia, T. EDTA in Foods-A Technical Review. Food Technology, 1964, 18: 12, 1874-1882.
9. Foreman, H., Trujillo, T. The metabolism of C14 labeled ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid in human beings. J Lab Clin Med, 1954, 43: 566-571.
10. Born, G.R., and Geurkink, T.L. Improved peripheral vascular function with low dose intravenous ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid (EDTA). Townsend Letter for Doctors. July, 1994, # 132, 722-726.
11. Manville, I., and Moser, R. Recent developments in the care of workers exposed to lead. AMA Arch Indust Health, 1955, 12: 528-538.
12. Gordon, G. Oral Chelation with EDTA. J Holistic Medicine, 1986, 8: 1 & 2, 79-80.
13. Dean, W., Oral Chelation Update, Vitamin Research News, 2002, Vol 16, Number 2.