STBTC and H-E-B to pilot iron supplements program

August 14, 2018
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The South Texas Blood & Tissue Center is joining with H-E-B in a pilot program to promote health and replenish iron levels for teenage blood donors in South Texas.

Starting this school year, parents of 16- and 17-year-olds who give blood at an STBTC donor room or mobile drive will receive a voucher for a free 100-day supply of iron supplements from H-E-B, along with educational material on iron-rich diets.

Vouchers will be mailed with a letter addressed to parents following a student’s blood donation. Information about the importance of maintaining normal iron levels and tips for boosting those levels also will be included with the letter.

“We want to thank H-E-B for joining us in this endeavor,” said Elizabeth Waltman, chief operating officer of STBTC. “Protecting the health of our volunteer donors is our highest priority.”

Most of the body’s supply of iron – a necessary nutrient for the production of red blood cells as well as overall good health and development – is contained in hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen in red blood cells. While all donors naturally lose some of their iron supply during a blood donation, teens are typically more susceptible to iron loss due to diets that often lack iron-rich foods.

Anyone who donates blood will temporarily lose a small portion of their iron levels; however, those most likely to need more support in rebuilding those iron stores include teenagers and women of childbearing age.

A donor’s iron level must be adequate before they can give blood and STBTC checks hemoglobin levels – one method for testing iron levels – as part of a wellness check before every potential blood donation.

Donors who eat a healthy and balanced diet usually see their iron levels return to normal in about two months. A study funded by the National Institutes of Health showed that taking iron supplements can speed up the process of returning iron levels to pre-donation levels.

“Every year, low iron is the most common reason people can’t donate blood,” Waltman said. “So we want to help our donors prepare for their next donation through education regarding healthy eating habits and supplemental iron.”

Foods that help build iron levels in the body include eggs, beef, poultry and fish. Many grain products, including cereal and bread, are fortified with iron as well. Vegetables that contain high sources of iron include broccoli, peas, kale and baked potatoes.  Vitamin C, contained in citrus and other tropical fruits, aids the body in absorbing iron. Even cooking in cast iron can make a difference in iron levels.  Visit SouthTexasBlood.org/Iron for more tips to improve iron levels prior to donation.

“H-E-B is proud to partner with the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center in developing the iron supplement program,” said Julie Bedingfield, H-E-B public affairs manager. “We hope these efforts will help to ensure the health and wellness of the generous South Texas donor community.”

For more information on the program, and on incorporating iron-rich foods into diets, go to SouthTexasBlood.org/Iron. Recipes and information on iron-rich foods are also available on H-E-B’s website at www.heb.com/recipe.