Anaemia affects roughly a third of the world’s population, with half of the cases due to iron deficiencies. Anaemia is usually defined as a decrease in red blood cells or haemoglobin in the red blood cells. Haemoglobin, a protein molecule that carries oxygen in red blood cells, depends on iron supply for its production. 1 Iron stores in the body exist mainly in the form of ferritin, a protein that binds to iron and plays a major role in storing iron in the human body. If iron stores are reduced, the body may not be able to produce enough haemoglobin to meet the demands of the cells. This will be reflected in low ferritin levels. 2
Blood donation is associated with a decrease in serum ferritin or blood iron. In a study that measured serum ferritin among blood donors, the depletion of iron was directly linked to the frequency of donations per year. In individuals donating 1 unit of blood yearly, the daily iron requirement increased by 0.65 mg/day in male donors and 0.58 mg/day in female donors.3
Dietary factors have long been known to affect levels of iron in the body. Not only is iron supplied through nutritional means, but our food intake also affects iron absorption. Blood-replenishing foods are recommended after losing blood due to blood donation, childbirth or heavy menstrual bleeding. As iron is lost through blood loss, prolonged durations of iron deficiency can result in anaemia.
Chicken essence, a traditional Chinese remedy for blood replenishment and alleviating tiredness, was investigated for its benefit in a three-week study involving a group of regular blood donors. A significant fall in serum iron was reported across all the participants after blood donation, especially in female donors. Comparing the outcome of chicken essence intake versus placebo, the mean levels of serum iron showed a less pronounced fall at week one and returned to pre-donation levels more rapidly. Although the serum ferritin level and haemoglobin were unaffected by the supplementation, serum iron levels can act as an indicator of recovery and may help to prevent anaemia after a donation especially in female donors. 4 Given the fact that female donors are typically more affected by blood donations as compared to male donors, this study suggests a positive usage of chicken essence as a blood replenishing food, similar to how it has been traditionally recommended for menstruation and postpartum usage.
1 Lopez A, Cacoub P, Macdougall I, Peyrin-Biroulet L. Iron deficiency anaemia. The Lancet. 2016;387(10021):907-916. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(15)60865-0
2 MD A. Ferritin | Serum Ferritin | High and Low Ferritin Explained. Docsopinion.com. Published 2018. Accessed November 19, 2018.
3 Finch C, Cook J, Labbe R, Culala M. Effect of blood donation on iron stores as evaluated by serum ferritin. Blood. 1977;50(3):441-447.
4 Williams A, Schey S. Use of a traditional blood remedy. A study on regular blood donors. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 1993;44(1):17-20. doi:10.3109/09637489309017418