Does Giving Blood Lower Your Cholesterol Levels?

Donating blood may be an alternative way to improve health

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If you have high levels of bad cholesterol, you might be familiar with studies suggesting that blood donation may lower your levels. Although blood donation is helpful for supplying blood for emergencies and medical procedures to individuals who need it, it can be surprising to hear that donating your blood regularly may have a beneficial effect on your health. But are these studies evidence enough that you should become a regular blood donor?

 With this overview, learn about the purported benefits of blood donation and what the research says about them.

Reported Health Benefits of Giving Blood

The health benefits of blood donation include lowering your heart rate, your blood pressure, and weight. Some researchers have also found that donating your blood regularly can lower your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. It may seem to be an effective way to lower your lipid levels. After all, when you donate your blood, you are donating the lipids in your blood, too, right?

Studies Are Conflicting 

If every study agreed about the impact of blood donation on cholesterol, you can bet doctors would urge any patient with bad cholesterol to stat giving blood right away. However, there are only a few studies examining the effect blood donation has on lipid levels, and the ones that exist are conflicting and not current.

One study examining the effects of blood donation found that donating blood every six weeks lowered the oxidation of LDL (oxidized LDL), which is associated with the development of atherosclerosis.

Although some studies suggest that high iron levels may play a role in this oxidation, which also appears lowered during regular blood donation, the studies are inconclusive. 

Most of these studies did not note a significant decrease in LDL cholesterol or triglycerides, although one study saw a slight reduction in these blood lipids.

 A couple of studies have noted up to a 7 percent increase in “good” cholesterol levels, or HDL. The reason for this slight increase is not known.

Despite only a very slight, if any, improvement in lipid levels, a couple of studies have shown that donating your blood at least once a year could decrease the likelihood of cardiovascular events, such as angina or a heart attack. However, more studies are needed to further investigate this claim. 

The Verdict

Although donating your blood can be an altruistic gesture to help others who are in need of it, you should not solely rely on blood donation to lower your lipid levels or to prevent heart disease. If you are trying to find ways to lower your cholesterol and triglyceride levels, you should talk to your healthcare provider for more reliable methods to improve your lipid profile and heart health. Ask your provider about the benefits of exercise and changing your diet to lower cholesterol levels. Discuss any medications that may help. Although blood donation sounds like the perfect quick fix, you don't want to base any health decisions on inconclusive research.

Sources:

Naidu VSD, Sundarachari R, Naidu VK et al. Study of various physiological, biochemical, and hematological parameters in repeated blood donors. MRIMS J Health Sci 2013;1:57-61

Van Jaarsveld H, Pool GF. Beneficial effects of blood donation on high density lipoprotein concentration and the oxidative potential of low density lipoprotein. Atherosclerosis 2002;161:395-402.

Meyers DG, Strickland D, Maloley PA et al. Possible association of a reduction in cardiovascular events with blood donation. Heart 1997;78:188-193.

Bharadraj RS. A study of lipid profiles among male voluntary blood donors in Chennai city. Ind J Comm Med 2005; 30:1.

Sloop GD. Possible association of a reduction in cardiovascular events with blood donation. Heart 1998;79:422.

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