Thalassemia: Iron chelation aided by wheatgrass

The role of iron chelation activity of wheat grass juice in blood transfusion requirement of intermediate thalassaemia.

Mukhopadhyay. S., Mukhopadhyay. A., Gupta. P., Kar. M., Ghosh. A. 2007 Am. Soc. Hematol. Ann.

Background: The authors noted there was no satisfactory explanation for reduced blood transfusion requirements in thalassemia major patients treated with fresh wheatgrass juice. (Marwaha et al) Thalassemias are diseases of abnormal hemoglobin, the oxygen carrying protein of the blood. There is a range of severities in the disease from relatively mild to fatal. In some instances frequent blood transfusions are necessary to provide patients with enough functional hemoglobin. Unfortunately since transfused blood carries iron, the patient accumulates excessive levels of iron in the body. Too much iron is toxic to the body, particularly the liver and nervous system.

Clinical Trial: 30mls of fresh wheatgrass juice extracted from 6 week old wheatgrass plants was given daily to 200 thalassemia intermedia patients over 6 months. They included E-beta thalassemia (160 patients), E-thalassemia, (30 patients) and 10 patients with Sickle thalassemia. Significant iron chelating activity comparable with a standard pharmaceutical chelator, desferrioxamine, was observed. Mean hemoglobin levels rose from 6.2gm% to 7.8gm% (26% increase). Serum ferritin levels decreased significantly and the 24 patients requiring incremental blood transfusion enjoyed an increased interval between transfusions. The authors concluded that wheatgrass juice is an effective alternative to blood transfusion in thalassemia intermedia patients and its use should be encouraged.

Conclusion: The use of orally consumed wheatgrass juice improved hemoglobin values in patients with intermediate thalassemia. It also possibly reduced the need for blood transfusions. Wheatgrass juice dose-dependently chelates iron, which could be helpful in patients who require frequent transfusions.