Health Benefits of Blood Donation Are Immediate

High iron causes disease

Body iron stores are correlated with and likely causative of cancer, heart disease, infections, and lots of other bad things, all of which I discussed in my recent book, Dumping Iron. This is related to the health benefits of blood donation.

The surest, quickest, most effective means of lowering body iron is through blood donation.

Lowering iron, whether through blood donation or other means, benefits health mainly over the long run, since heart disease and cancer don’t develop overnight.

But it turns out that the health benefits of blood donation — or therapeutic phlebotomy — begin immediately after donation.

The instant benefits of blood donation

A group of medical scientists looked at 96 healthy blood donors and measured the levels of C-reactive protein, pentraxin-3, superoxide dismutase, and nitric oxide in their blood both before and after a voluntary blood donation. Their paper: “One more health benefit of blood donation: reduces acute-phase reactants, oxidants and increases antioxidant capacity”.(1)

C-reactive protein (CRP) is an important marker of inflammation. High levels are associated with heart disease risk.

Pentraxin-3 is a marker of molecular oxidative damage.

Superoxide dismutase is an important detoxifying enzyme. Increasing it through genetic manipulation of lab animals increases their lifespan — that’s how important it is.(2)

Nitric oxide is an important signaling molecule that is vital for the dilation of arteries. It controls blood pressure and is responsible for many of the benefits of exercise.

The study was done in Turkey, where blood donor participation as a percent of the population is low; the researchers were interested in stressing the benefits of blood donation so as to increase donor participation rates.

Through nefarious means (SciHub), I got my hands on the full paper. Yes, I’m that interested in the health effects of blood donation.

Pentraxin-3, the marker of molecular damage, dropped by more than 60%.

Nitric oxide, the beneficial artery dilator, increased by 60%.

Superoxide dismutase, the detoxifying enzyme, increased about 33%.

CRP, the inflammation marker, dropped about 10%.

To emphasize, this all took place 24 hours after donation.

Blood donation a form of hormesis

The authors comment regarding the reduction in pentraxin-3 and CRP, “We think that these reductions arise from reduction of iron levels.” I agree.

As for the other results, the authors posit various mechanistic explanations, but in my opinion what may be going on here is hormesis. That is, a blood donation causes a stress response which activates stress defense mechanisms, resulting in better health. The body senses a loss of blood and prepares to defend itself.

The benefits of blood donation are not confined to the long-term lowering of iron stores, although that is probably the chief benefit.

Blood donation appears to result in immediate better health, as seen in several biomarkers.

PS: For much more on this topic, get my book, Dumping Iron: How to Ditch This Secret Killer and Reclaim Your Health.

PPS: Check out my Supplements Buying Guide for Men.

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16 comments
Nathan says June 27, 2016

Subbing to new posts

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    P. D. Mangan says June 27, 2016

    ?

    Reply
Douglas says June 28, 2016

This doesn’t surprise me. I have hereditary hemochromatosis and after my last double RBC donation I felt better walking out of the clinic than when I walked in.

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    Cmdr. McGuy says June 29, 2016

    Are ye Irish me boyo?

    Reply
Cmdr. McGuy says June 29, 2016

Does a cast iron frying pan allow iron to leech into your food? I need a pan what is the best type healthwise?

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    P. D. Mangan says June 29, 2016

    Yes it does, depending a lot on what kind of food is being cooked. Tomato sauce or anything acidic will put a few mg of iron in your food, others less so. I don’t have a problem with teflon pans healthwise, but I could be mistaken.

    Reply
Irony Man says June 30, 2016

Used to be that everyone looked down on 18th century doctors for using treatments like bleeding. But it must have provided some benefit, else they wouldn’t have done so long. At least bleeding doesn’t have to involve leeches anymore.

With the newer methods of donation, a man doesn’t give away immune system components in plasma, either.

After lung cancer a big killer of men is prostate cancer. Tumors require iron to grow, so men who donate blood & keep their ferretin low should have reduced incidence of that cancer. This could be tested if there was a way to fund the study over a decade or so.

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    armand says August 5, 2016

    I have a question about: “With the newer methods of donation, a man doesn’t give away immune system components in plasma, either.”

    Should I donate blood or only plasma? My motivation is personal health and lower iron levels.

    Reply
JP says July 2, 2016

Does the paper track how long those levels of “bad things” were suppressed? Thus indicating how often you should donate?

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    P. D. Mangan says July 2, 2016

    No, it was just a one-time measurement post-24 hours donation.

    Reply
Joshua says July 5, 2016

Based on this, then, would you posit that donating blood is healthier than merely taking IP6 to chelate iron?

(I’m awfully squeamish about needles and blood, and hate the idea of being weaker and probably needing to take time off from the gym after donation, so I haven’t tried the blood donation idea yet.)

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    P. D. Mangan says July 5, 2016

    Not necessarily. IP6 chelates free iron, which in certain cases is better. But blood donation removes large amounts of iron quickly. If your ferritin was high, you could be a long time getting it down taking IP6.

    Reply
cdh says July 24, 2016

Worth noting that health advisor advise against donating whilst on a fast.

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