Diabetes Agent > News

Can the “gift of life” give back?

September 4, 2012 in News

On their home page, the American Red Cross invites you to “Give the gift that everyone wants but money can’t buy” by donating blood. New research is suggesting that regular blood donation may give back to the donor as well.

Yes, giving blood that may save someone’s life can provide anyone with an emotional lift. What researchers in Germany found during their controlled clinical trial, however, were signs of important health benefits for obese patients with metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome (METS) is an increasingly prevalent set of related conditions that is still poorly understood; it is characterized by insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, dyslipidemia, hypertension and obesity. METS leads to an increased risk of developing both diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Previous research has demonstrated an association between the excess accumulation of iron in the body and both diabetes and hypertension. What isn’t known is the nature of the cause and effect relationship between iron levels higher than those needed by the body and either diabetes or hypertension. The German research team hypothesized that regardless of whether excess iron is the cause or the effect, reducing iron levels in the body should alter some of the symptoms of METS.

64 participants with METS were divided into two groups. One group was the control group, and received their usual medical care. The other group had 300mL of blood removed at the start of the study (about 1 1/4 cups). Four weeks later, they had between 250 and 500mL of blood drawn. 500mL is just a little more than a pint, which is the standard amount drawn when blood is donated in the United States.

Six weeks after this second donation, which allowed for all of the blood volume lost to be replaced by the body, the researchers checked each participant’s blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar, and cholesterol. Each of these measures are considers markers of cardiovascular risk and how well blood sugar is controlled.

The research team found that the patient’s blood pressures significantly improved; their blood sugar, A1c, heart rate, and cholesterol values improved as well. This could mean that regular blood donations could help prevent individuals with METS from developing type 2 diabetes, and might help individuals with diabetes achieve better control over their blood sugar and lower their risk of heart disease.

More studies will be needed before this research leads to new medical guidelines, but the initial results are exciting. If regularly donating a pint of blood helps lower the risk of heart disease and improves blood sugar regulation, it’s a win for everyone!

It’s important to remember that not everyone can safely donate blood, so before you think about signing up to donate, add asking your doctor if she or he feels it is a good idea for you to your Pre Appointment Checklist. The Red Cross also has a comprehensive list of donor requirements that can help you decide whether to give.

The source for this article was a ScienceDaily news release. You can also read the abstract of the research article through BioMedCentral.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *