Chelation therapy has been used to treat heart disease, and a randomized, placebo-controlled trial of chelation therapy showed that it works, which I wrote about in Heavy Metals and Heart Attacks. Further analysis of the results from the chelation trial have shown another interesting result: in patients who do not take statins, multivitamins prevent heart attacks.
Chelation therapy, the process in which doctors infuse EDTA into a patient with the aim of removing metals, has been practiced for decades mainly by alternative practitioners. The Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy, or TACT, was designed to rigorously test this therapy, and was originally thought of as a debunking study that would finally put the idea of chelation therapy to rest and confirm the mainstream proclamations of its uselessness. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on which side of health care you stand on, the trial found that, contrary to expectations, it worked.
Note that the first chart shows a non-significant reduction in cardiovascular events in patients on placebo infusions, but taking the multivitamin/mineral supplement.
The group running the trial looked at the data using “a prespecified subgroup analysis of participants not on statin therapy”. “Prespecified” is important here because it means the reseachers did not use data mining to find their results.
Most of the patients in the trial, 73% of them, were taking statins, since these drugs are considered standard of care for heart attack patients. But 27% were not on statins, and this group was analyzed separately.
The group taking vitamins, as opposed to placebo, had 54% fewer events, a composite of cardiovascular mortality, stroke, or heart attack. See event rate chart below.
The researchers were flabbergasted:
“These findings were unexpected and have to be viewed with appropriate skepticism… The TACT investigators did not expect the OMVM regimen to produce clinically important benefits independent of the chelation treatment. The findings reported here were serendipitously discovered. The relative treatment effect seems quite large and this, in the presence of substantial noncompliance and what we think we already know about OMVM, makes these results seem implausible. However, implausible does not mean wrong. Under these circumstances, it is prudent to view these results skeptically and await TACT2 replication before any serious consideration is given to the potential clinical value of these findings.”
Previous trials have found no benefit of vitamins in cardiovascular disease, but most of them used either single vitamins or different formulations with much smaller amounts of vitamins and minerals.
In the study discussed here, the only reason they used vitamins is because chelation practitioners told them that they should, because that has been their practice. The ingredients of the MVM supplement can be found here. What jumps out are much higher amounts than in the Physician’s Health Study, as well as high amounts of vitamin A, C, B vitamins, and a hefty 500 mg of magnesium. Lots of other vitamins and minerals too.
In addition, the infusion used for chelation contained EDTA – based on kidney function, with a maximum of 3 grams – and 2 grams of magnesium chloride, 7 grams of vitamin C, potassium, and three B vitamins.
My bet is on magnesium as the main component of the supplement that lowered the risk of cardiovascular events.
The patients got large doses of magnesium, 2 grams in the infusion once a week, and 500 mg daily in the supplement. That alone could have seriously good benefits for cardiovascular health, since subclinical magnesium deficiency is a principal driver of cardiovascular disease.
Huge numbers of people do not get enough magnesium, as much as 50% of the population, and that figure is using the official RDA. At a more realistic intake of magnesium, many more are deficient. And magnesium deficiency is not readily detectable with standard lab testing. Magnesium deficiency can lead to hypertension and atherosclerosis.
Many magnesium supplements aren’t absorbed well. While the study doesn’t specify what type of magnesium the MVM contained, the fact that the patients got an infusion of 2 grams of magnesium chloride weekly guarantees that body magnesium levels increased.
Magnesium citrate is the best absorbed form of magnesium. I take this one. Don’t even bother with magnesium oxide, the kind found on drugstore shelves, as the body can absorb next to none of it.
Of course other vitamins and minerals may have contributed to the lower incidence of cardiovascular events. Maybe most of them together synergized. Of note, the supplement contained no iron.
Of interest, patients taking statins got no benefit from the vitamin/mineral supplement. That could mean a couple of things.
By eyeballing the charts, my bet is on the first option: statins negate the benefits of vitamins and minerals.
What can we conclude, or at least conjecture, about these results?