When you look for EDTA supplements on the internet, you will find a number of products that allegedly detoxify your system and delay aging. Moreover, some products also claim to improve your heart function and support “good” cholesterol. But the big question is this: Does oral EDTA supplementation really work? In this article, we will explore what science says about this, and the precautions you should take.
What is EDTA?
EDTA is an acronym for ethylenediamine tetraacetic acid. As an oral supplement, EDTA is available in multiple forms including: Calcium Disodium Edathamil, Calcium Disodium EDTA, Calcium Disodium Edetate, Calcium Disodium Versenate, Calcium Edetate and Calcium EDTA.
EDTA is a chelating agent. The term 'chelate' is derived from the Greek word 'chele', which meaning 'to claw'. Chelating agents bind to metal ions present in the body and facilitate their elimination via the urine and feces. It is thought that EDTA removes 'toxic metals' (e.g. lead, arsenic) in the body which could theoretically prevent premature aging as well as to reduce the risk of certain diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and neurological diseases
Although EDTA is gaining in popularity as an oral over the counter supplement, it has been available via prescription since the 1950's. On a doctor’s prescription, it is given by injection into the vein or muscle to treat poisoning by heavy metals, most notably, lead. Moreover, your doctor may prescribe it to treat hypercalcemia (high levels of calcium in the blood) or for certain arrhythmias.
Over the last few years, its non-prescriptive use, oral EDTA supplementation, has gained huge popularity in the OTC marketplace. People use it for a variety of purposes including:
- Maintenance of heart health
- Healthy blood flow
- Prevention of plaque build-up in the arteries
- Slowing down aging
It is available in the form of oral capsule, powder, and liquid drops. You can also purchase combination products. They contain CoQ10, garlic extract, malic acid and antioxidants like Cysteine HCl, L-Carnitine, and Ginkgo Biloba.
Benefits of Oral EDTA
There is currently insufficient evidence to support the purported benefits of oral EDTA supplementation. Let’s explore some of the available data:
One of the most popular uses of EDTA is for anti-aging. EDTA is said to reduce the signs of aging by binding to toxic metals as well as by acting as an antioxidant. In fact, oral EDTA supplements are often combined with other natural ingredients that have known antioxidant effects such as garlic.
However, there is insufficient evidence that taking EDTA by mouth can provide some noticeable benefits to the user. This is because only a very little fraction of what you ingest reaches the bloodstream (i.e. it absorbed by the body poorly).
In addition, there have been no long term studies that show the binding of heavy metals has an effect on the signs of aging or that it can reduce the risk of diseases that could lead to a premature death. Any benefit is theoretical is this regard.
One area where EDTA may have substantiated benefit is for the treatment and prevention of heart disease. Proponents of EDTA therapy for the prevention of heart disease is based on the following premise: EDTA is believed to remove calcium and other minerals that promote plaque formation in the blood vessels. When excess plaque builds up, the flow of blood is restricted, raising blood pressure and potentially causing cardiovascular complications.
There is a growing interest of the scientific community in the potential role of EDTA in heart disease management. A large-scale study, completed over a 10 year period, called the Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy (TACT) was commissioned by The National Institute of Health and published in 2013.
The TACT study was designed to determine both the safety and efficacy of EDTA chelation therapy for individuals with prior heart attacks. It is important to note that only IV (intravenous) EDTA was tested in the study, not oral EDTA.
While we won't get into the specific details regarding the study design and results, the authors concluded the following:
"Among stable patients with a history of MI (myocardial infarction), use of an intravenous chelation regimen with disodium EDTA, compared with placebo, modestly reduced the risk of adverse cardiovascular outcomes"
Due to the positive, if not somewhat surprising results of the TACT study, a second study is currently underway and is known as TACT2 (Second Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy). The study looks to further evaluate the possible benefit of EDTA therapy in a specific population, those with diabetes and a history of a prior heart attack.
If you are looking for further information on the TACT trials, you may visit the National Institute of Health website located here.
The Bottom Line
The issue with EDTA supplementation is that there are a very small number of studies that test oral supplementation specifically.
Most studies review IV EDTA therapy. The good news is that we know that IV therapy is beneficial for binding heavy metals (an FDA approved indication) and preliminary data shows that EDTA may be beneficial for reducing negative outcomes from certain cardiovascular disease. Therefore, in theory, oral EDTA may provide some benefits if it can be supplied in a form that is absorbable by the body.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, there are a variety EDTA forms available (e.g. Calcium Disodium Edathamil, Calcium Disodium EDTA, Calcium Disodium Edetate). There isn't sufficient evidence to claim one product is better than another. It is important to note however, that non-calcium bound EDTA supplements MAY bind to higher levels of calcium than others, thus putting you more at risk for calcium deficiency.
All forms of EDTA are not well absorbed, with studies reporting absorption rates of less than 15%. To maximize absorption, EDTA should be taken on an empty stomach. If it is taken with food, EDTA immediately binds to the minerals and metals it first comes into contact with. Thus, it should be taken when no food is present to avoid premature binding.
If you do choose to take an oral EDTA supplement, it is often recommended to take a multivitamin the same day, separated by at least 8 to 12 hours. Since EDTA chelates metal ions, it unfortunately may also bind to and eliminate many necessary minerals such as zinc, magnesium and calcium.
All things considered, it’s wise to consult your doctor or pharmacist before taking the supplement. Also, make sure to inform your doctor if you have any of the following conditions.
- Liver and kidney impairment
- An ongoing heart condition
- Diabetes with uncontrolled blood glucose levels
- Low blood levels of calcium, potassium, and magnesium
- Current or history of seizures