Bloodletting conjures images of medieval doctors in long robes applying leeches or small cuts to poor sick souls who likely wouldn’t survive the ancient procedure. Appearing to have little or no effect on most illness, the practice was abandoned in the 19th century. But new research in the BioMed Central’s open access journal BMC Medicine just might help bring it back.
The research demonstrated that blood donation has real benefits for obese people with metabolic syndrome. In just two sessions of bloodletting, blood pressure improved, as did markers of cardiovascular disease.
Patients with metabolic syndrome suffer from a variety of illnesses, including insulin resistance, hypertension and an increased risk of diabetes. Because the accumulation of iron in the body is associated with hypertension and diabetes, researchers from Berlin and University of Duisburg-Essen created two groups, one of which underwent iron reduction by phlebotomy — or drawing of blood.
Prof Andreas Michalsen from the Charité-University Medical Centre, Berlin, who led this research explained: “Consecutive reduction in iron stores was able to improve markers of cardiovascular risk and glycemic control. Consequently blood donation may prevent not just diabetes but also cardiovascular disease for the obese. Obviously this treatment will not be suitable for people with anemia however for those eligible for treatment blood donation may prevent escalation of their condition.”