Benefits of Donating Blood: Reduced Systolic Blood Pressure and Lower Risks for Heart Disease and Diabetes



The historic practice of bloodletting had little effect on most diseases and the practice was eventually abandoned in the 19th century. In a study published in the journal BMC Medicine researchers report that modern bloodletting, or blood donations, actually confer a range of positive health benefits in people with metabolic syndrome. Donating blood only twice is enough to significantly improve blood pressure levels while reducing a number of markers of cardiovascular disease.

Metabolic syndrome refers to a collection of symptoms linked to the development of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Symptoms of the condition, also referred to as insulin resistance, include insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, dyslipidemia and hypertension. Metabolic syndrome affects more than one in five Americans.

Since it is known that accumulation of iron in the body is also associated with hypertension and diabetes, researchers from Berlin and University Duisburg-Essen randomly assigned patients with metabolic syndrome into two groups — one undergoing iron reduction by phlebotomy and the other serving as controls.

The iron-reduction patients had 300 ml of blood removed at the start of the trial, and between 250 and 500 ml removed four weeks later. Six weeks later, after the patients blood volume had returned to normal, the patients who had given blood showed a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure (down from 148 mmHg to 130 mmHg) as well as significant reductions in blood glucose levels and heart rate, and improved cholesterol levels (LDL/HDL ratio).

Prof Andreas Michalsen from the Charité-University Medical Centre, Berlin, who led this research explained, “Consecutive reduction in iron stores was able to improve markers of cardiovascular risk and glycemic control. Consequently blood donation may prevent not just diabetes but also cardiovascular disease for the obese. Obviously this treatment will not be suitable for people with anemia, however for those eligible for treatment blood donation may prevent escalation of their condition.”

Source: Khosrow S Houschyar, Rainer Lüdtke, Gustav J Dobos, Ulrich Kalus, Martina Bröcker-Preuss, Thomas Rampp, Benno Brinkhaus and Andreas Michalsen. Effects of phlebotomy-induced reduction of body iron stores on metabolic syndrome: Results from a randomized clinical trial. BMC Medicine.

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