Thalassemia in childhood (#2)

Recently I described new research that may well turn out to be an important breakthrough in the treatment of thalassemia – a serious inherited disorder of hemoglobin that causes reduced oxygen levels in the body and imposes enormous emotional, psychological and physical demands on patients and their families. Thalassemia also makes massive demands on the health budgets of countries where the disorder is prevalent. In the United States for example, where there are some 80,000 thalassemics, the annual medical costs are around three quarters of a billion US dollars. In Thailand, where there are approximately 600,000 sufferers of the disease, the costs are also substantial, so that the national health budget is unable to cope with the problem. The same situation exists in a number of other countries, so that treatment is often sub-standard or simply not available. It follows that in these countries, high mortality rates in thalassemic children occur. If wheatgrass is found to be effective in treating this disorder, the impact could be profoundly positive in many ways.

Already this year, there have been two important research findings regarding wheatgrass and thalassemia.

  1. In India – 16 children all responded well to consuming freshly juiced wheatgrass daily. Transfusion requirements were significantly lowered both in time between transfusions and the amount of blood required. This finding alone could substantially reduce health costs, using a simple, home-grown remedy.
  2. In Melbourne – the wheatgrass extract I use in clinical practice was found to generate high levels of fetal hemoglobin (HbF) in an experimental model using gene technology. HbF carries more oxygen than adult hemoglobin, so an increase in concentration could be expected to help thalassemics enjoy a better quality of life.

We now have another piece of information that suggests that the positive findings from the Indian study may have been due to wheatgrass inducing trial participants’ HbF. (This parameter was not measured in the study.)

Two children from the same family who have inherited blood disorders (thalassemia and sickle cell disease), have been taking my wheatgrass extract twice daily since 27 May this year. During the five weeks between their last two tests, there have been significant increases in their fetal hemoglobin levels. In the male child, it increased by 246 percent. This is quite a remarkable figure by comparison with what one could expect from HbF-inducing pharmaceuticals such as hydroxyurea – a drug that can cause serious adverse effects.

Although it is too soon to make any definitive conclusions, the results may be promising.

Dr. Chris Reynolds.