Sunday, August 3, 2008

Men's Nutrition: Iron, Diet, Blood Donations, and More. . .

Charles Staley posted this cool Q & A with Lonnie Lowry, a genius of nutrition.

As men (actually, as just plain human beings), we are only as healthy as our bodies. If we are physically unhealthy, every other part of us will suffer, so it's important to eat well, exercise, and do whatever it takes to build a solid physical foundation for the rest of our lives.

That said, here is some good info on an issue that impacts men much more than women.
Men's Nutrition: Iron, Diet, Blood Donations, and More...
By Dr. Lonnie Lowery

I'd like to quic
kly share some information of a men's issue that's come up recently: iron in the diet.

Although the public often gets the message that iron is "good", it's possible to get too much of a good thing - especially for men who don't menstruate (lose blood and thus iron monthly). Sometimes I even wonder if the 97% female majority of a major dietetics group doesn't influence this message somewhat.

Yes, iron deficiency, which can eventually lead to anemia, is the world's number one nutritional deficiency. And yes, one can feel fatigue even before full blown iron deficiency anemia (small pale and reduced red blood cells) hits. But it's partly a gender issue - especially in developed countries like the U.S. where meat and iron fortification are plentiful.

You see, most men accumulate iron between their teen and middle years, up to a point that (debatably) increases heart disease risk (iron is a pro-oxidant) and could even damage cells (liver, muscle, etc.). You "damage" muscle cells and tendon cells enough with chronic weightlifting.

So what does one do?

Find balance.

Mix-up protein foods and don't rely too heavily on just meats (highly absorbable heme iron) or rely too much on eggs and dairy, which actually block iron availability somewhat. (And, if coupled with frequent blood donations could be bad.)

If you're a guy who knows he's not anemic, consider the "Silver" (iron-free) type of multivitamin/multi-mineral tablets. It's likely that you eat too much iron from the foods you already ingest; you probably don't need even more from your supplements!

Even a low-moderate amount of supplemented vitamin C (~250 mg is a common dose) or vitamin C-rich foods like citrus, strawberries, red bell peppers, etc. will further up your absorption of iron.

Some foods decrease iron absorption such as tannins in tea, phytates in whole grains and oxalate in spinach.

Do you consume lots of these?

Get used to reading Nutrition Facts panels on food labels. Iron is one of the "highlighted" minerals that you'll always see there. Men don't need more than 8 mg daily (teens 11 mg) and you probably shouldn't consume more than 30mg per day.

If you are concerned enough to donate blood - helping yourself and others - consider this: the Red Cross does a simple density check on a finger prick sample to check if you are "ready" to donate. However, it's possible to be low iron (e.g. if you've been donating 4-5 times per year for a long time) and they'd still clear you. I personally don't appease the "vampires" more than twice per year these days.

Whether you're a guy or a gal, the information in this list is helpful when adjusting iron intake (upward or downward), thus affecting bodily stores over the weeks and months.

I'll leave you with two related email questions from readers…



Great article this week. I do have a question regarding donating blood.

The last time I gave blood successfully was about 1.5 years ago, and they came back showing I had high liver enzymes. I wasn't taking anything at the time ... not protein supplements, no androgens, nada. Then, last Fall I tried to donate again, but I was denied because of my high levels. I was told that I placed on a list that bars me from giving blood. I'm 20 years old, 190 lbs currently.

Do you know how long this ban lasts and/or is there any way around it? I think the high levels may have attributed to overtraining, but I'm not sure.

Justin Case

Hello Justin,

Of course I don't know all the specifics, but weight training men often have elevated ALT and AST. These enzymes "spill" out of sore, exercise-damaged skeletal muscle and are not just "liver enzymes". You can read "Muscle Masochism I" and II after an online search (Google). I don't know if there is a time limit on the list you mentioned. If muscle microtrauma/ soreness is indeed the etiology behind your high ALT and AST, then taking a week off from lifting before attempting to donate again (at another location?) may help.

Take care,


I read your online article regarding iron.

I have hemochromatosis and have given blood every week for 12 consecutive weeks. Under Dr.'s care, I take 300mg of T every other week and 500iu of HCG every other day. I still feel like crap compared to when I started to feel last August. Although, the addition one month ago of HCG has proved worthwhile - I really feel it in my testicles.

A question no one can answer is whether giving blood the day after taking a cypionate shot, funnels T from my body. I am somewhat anemic so perhaps that is why I am tired. But maybe also the blood draws are taking T from my stream?

Any ideas?

Justin Time

Hi Justin,
Well, I can't comment on your medical issues but as general info., I suppose it is possible that, since T injections "spike" quickly in the bloodstream (hence the popularity of "slower-release" patches or daily gels), that one may indeed lose more of that T during a subsequent phlebotomy session (500cc out of about 5000cc of blood being removed). I know it sounds like a copout, but I'd discuss concerns with the physician.

And remember one can get tired and exhibit reduced athletic performance from low iron levels well before full blown anemia develops. So always stay aware of your blood iron (or ferritin or transferrin saturation) levels, if and when they start to fall from the treatments

Good Luck!

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