Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Health Benefits of Donating Blood

I had been contemplating becoming a blood donor for some time.  Some positives about giving include the altruistic component.  It feels good to do something so simple that may indeed save a life.  You also get your blood pressure checked, another health preventative strategy.  It got me wondering if there are any other health benefits.

Going back in history, blood letting was a common "remedy" for all kinds of maladies.  It was used for over 3000 years.  This is just me guessing, it probably helped someone and that is why it persisted.

Excess Iron can actually be a health problem for men, why you see multivitamins for men without Iron. Women menstruate so they usually don't have the problem of excess iron. (they may in fact have the opposite)

Excess Iron can be a contributor to premature aging, cancer, heart disease and perhaps most problematic, inflammation.  When there is preexisting inflammation in the body, free iron in the blood accumulate there and accelerates the inflammation.   Excess Iron has been shown to be a problem with heart disease and for increasing LDL cholesterol (the bad).  The aging process of skin has a correlation related to the amount of iron in the body.

Vitamin C increases the absorption of Iron.  Orange Juice has been shown to really skyrocket your iron levels.  Tim Ferris in his book, The Four Hour Body, talks about this.  This is one reason they give you OJ after donating blood.  It is also easier to absorb the iron in meat then in plants.  Some things that block absorption are coffee, milk and eggs.

This brings us back to donating blood.  I went down to the Red Cross Donor Center here in Grand Rapids, MI and went through the screening process.  I was denied.  A trip to Brazil earlier this year to work with a sprinter, disqualified me, as it was a hot zone for Malaria.  I later found out that only 37% of Americans are currently estimated to be eligible to donate.

Donating blood is a good way to get rid of excess Iron and there is enough evidence that excess Iron is not a good thing.  I haven't been able to give any first hand (n=1) knowledge of the donation process, but don't let that stop you.  As their ad says, Be a Hero, Donate Blood.....and reap some health benefits as well.

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