At the beginning of the 20th century, Karl Landsteiner identified ABO blood types and since then, the focus has been on blood transfusion recipients and their protection. Blood transfusions saved millions of lives and it continues to do so. But there is inadequacy of blood donors make transfusion difficult when the need arises. To encourage healthy people to donate, studies are being initiated to find benefits of blood donation.
It has been decades when the general public first heard of antioxidants and its benefits. Soon enough, people began taking this compound through diets and supplementations. But one study explored the potentials of blood transfusion in increasing antioxidant capacity.
A 2016 Turkish study recruited 96 healthy volunteers aged 19–26 years old and who were nonsmokers to be part of a blood donation research. Blood samples were withdrawn 5 minutes before and 24 hours after the blood donation.
Antioxidant capacity was measured through serum nitric oxide (NO), malondialdehyde (MDA) levels, and activity of antioxidants such as myeloperoxidase (MPO) and superoxide dismutase (SOD), one of the most potent defensive antioxidant enzymes.
Serum levels of high-sensitive C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) and pentraxin-3 (PTX-3) as acute-phase reactants were also measured. PTX-3 and hs-CRP are the two most known and studied acute phase reactants (APRs) or oxidative status markers. Free radical-mediated oxidative damage has been implicated in the pathogenesis of numerous diseases such as cardiovascular, autoimmune, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases.
Primary pro-inflammatory signals (i.e. bacterial products) that are produced by different cell types lead to the production of PTX-3. It is believed that PTX - 3 reflects local inflammation and directly correlates with disease activity.
Nitrating oxidants are implicated in host defense mechanisms. Nitric oxide(NO) that is produced from the amino acid L-arginine has antioxidant property. It has been reported that myeloperoxidase (MPO) and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) are co-localized in white blood cells or leukocytes. The MPO-dependent oxidation of nitrite increases formation of reactive nitrogen species hence, a corresponding increase in antioxidant activity.
An organism also can defend itself against the effects of oxidative stress by increasing SOD (superoxide dismutase) activity. Malondialdehyde was used for the assessment of superoxide (O2–) radical production. Lipid peroxidation was monitored by measuring MDA, which results from free radical damage to membrane components of the cells.
Results showed the levels of PTX-3 and hs-CRP were reduced after blood donation. On the other hand, the activity of SOD and the level of NO increased. Furthermore, MDA level was insignificantly lower in the serum after blood donation. These results indicate that blood donation may be good for the health.
The authors think that these results arise from reduction of iron levels. Excessive iron, especially heme iron, has been linked to heart diseases and colon cancer. The results suggest that increased SOD activity and NO level by blood donation may change the oxidative status and increase antioxidants to ameliorate the negative effects of oxidants.
Blood donation’s reduction of inflammatory compounds and increased antioxidant activity is not the only benefit that was recently discovered. Other studies have also shown that it reduces the amount of excessive iron in the body and reduces the risk of heart diseases. Blood donors had 88% reduced risk of acute myocardial infarction.
Donating blood was associated with lower cancer risk and mortality from cancers such as colon cancer due to reduction of excess iron. Blood donation may potentially help obese patients with metabolic syndrome by helping to lower blood pressure, along with other changes that are linked with a reduced risk of heart disease and improvement of overall heart health
Currently, the main indications for blood donation as a primary therapeutic medical intervention include treatment of hereditary hemochromatosis or other hemoglobin synthesis or myeloproliferative disorders such as polycythemia and porphyria. But with the recent discoveries, it is possible that with donating your blood you could be doing more than saving another person’s life.
- Yunce, M. et al. One more health benefit of blood donation: reduces acute-phase reactants, oxidants and increases antioxidant capacity. Journal of Basic Clininical Physiology and Pharmacology. 2016.