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Can Blood Donation Lower Cholesterol Levels?

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Updated May 16, 2014

Can Blood Donation Lower Cholesterol Levels?
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There has been some debate as to whether or not blood donation has additional health benefits -- including lowering your cholesterol. It may seem to be an effective way to lower your cholesterol. After all, when you donate your blood, you are donating the lipids in your blood, too, right?

Don’t start pulling up your arm sleeves and running to the blood bank just yet. Not may studies have examined this effect –- and the studies that have looked at blood donation in lowering cholesterol are not recent.

What Have the Studies Shown So Far?

A few studies suggest blood donation may have a positive effect on your cholesterol levels. 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, the studies are inconclusive. Other scientists suggest that donating blood may make your blood less viscous, or thin, which could contribute to the lowered amounts of LDL, and other lipids, in the blood.

The few studies that examine the effectiveness of donating blood on lower cholesterol levels are few and not current. In any case, the studies that have examined this effect did not note a significant decrease in LDL cholesterol or triglycerides. However, this study also noted a 7% increase in “good” cholesterol levels, or HDL. Despite the modest decrease in cholesterol, a couple of studies have shown that regular blood donation (at least once a year) could decrease the likelihood of cardiovascular events, such as angina or a heart attacks. However, more studies are needed to further investigate this.

Although donating your blood to those who need it is important, you shouldn’t rely on it to lower your cholesterol levels or prevent heart disease. If you are trying to find ways to lower your cholesterol, modifying your diet and adding exercise to your daily list of priorities is a good place to start.

Sources:

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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