Air Supply: Why Hemoglobin is so Crucial
The blood's vital components include plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. But, there's one tie for all these vital components—hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells, which transports oxygen. However, hemoglobin's value spans way beyond the red blood cells. Hemoglobin supplies the air that is required for cell generation, cell repair, and optimized organ functioning throughout the body (Abbaspour, Hurrell, & Kelishadi, 2014; Friar, 2017; Johns Hopkins Medicine, n.d). Let's see why hemoglobin is so critical.

Hemoglobin's Role

Hemoglobin's primary component, iron—which grants blood its red color—enables it to capture oxygen from the air we're breathing, and distribute it through the body. For proper oxygen distribution though, hemoglobin must be at an adequate level. The optimal hemoglobin range is 14.0 grams per deciliter (14 gm/dL) to 17.5gm/dL for men, while it is 12.3gm/dL to 15.3gm/dL for women (Cleveland Clinic, 2022). Along with its role as an oxygen transporter, hemoglobin has other functions including transducing heat (converting heat into usable energy) through its oxygenation-deoxygenation cycle; regulating erythrocyte—the red blood cell that carries hemoglobin and carries it throughout the body—metabolism; minimizing oxidation, which can damage cells, as a result of erythrocyte senescence or degradation; heightening genetic resistance to malaria and similar diseases; maintaining physiological activity amid consumption of drugs and antivirals; and providing active catabolites, a product of a metabolic process that yields the release of energy due to the breakdown of proteins, fats, and other nutrients in an organism (Badior & Casey, 2017; Giardina, Messana, & Castagnola, 1995). Just as importantly, after delivering oxygen, hemoglobin becomes a magnet for carbon dioxide (among the body's waste products), returning it to the lungs and facilitating carbon dioxide's release upon exhalation. However, a low hemoglobin level can compromise these processes, and lead to deleterious effects. Fatigue and weakness, and even tachycardia (increased heart rate)—particularly, in the instance of concordant anemia—are potential consequences of inadequate hemoglobin (Holzner, Kemmel, & Greil, 2002; Mayo Clinic, 2022). As can be discerned, hemoglobin is a cornerstone of respiration, metabolism, immunity, and overall physiology.

Hemoglobin and Platelets

Hemoglobin is also instrumental to the formation of platelets, the clotting mechanism in the body, which, according to recent studies (Koupenova, Livada, & Morrell, 2022; Mandel et al., 2022; Scherlinger, Richez, Tsokos, Boilard, & Blanco, 2023), is a bulwark for the body's immunity. A low hemoglobin count may impede the production of platelets in the body. Low hemoglobin was concomitant with depressed platelets in a patient with cholangiocarcinoma (a cancer originating in the bile ducts) (Morton & George, 2016). Low hemoglobin is also a common effect of thalassemia—an inherited blood disorder which prompts the body to produce an abnormal or inadequate form of hemoglobin—a condition that can result in anemia (Mayo Clinic, 2021). In a case study, Seminal observed that a subject's platelets were steadily, and perniciously, declining until their hemoglobin level increased. Upon their consumption of Lifeblood for four consecutive days, the subject's hemoglobin level reached the healthy range. For more information on the link between hemoglobin and platelets, please see Seminal's blog March 2023 post.

We would be remiss if we didn't provide more details regarding platelet generation. The hormone thrombopoietin, produced in the liver and kidneys, which regulates platelet production. In turn, thrombopoietin stimulates the production of megakaryocytes, rare cells in the bone marrow that control the daily production and release of millions of platelets into the bloodstream (Feher, 2012; Malara et al., 2016).  Though more research is needed, findings suggest that an adequate hemoglobin level is needed to optimize megakaryocyte and thrombopoietin levels, and, consequently, to optimize platelet count.

Foods that Increase Hemoglobin

You can increase, and optimize, your hemoglobin naturally. Foods that are stocked with iron and folate (vitamin B9), and maximixe iron absorption, will boost your hemoglobin level (Medical News Today, 2018). These foods include:

  • Black Beans
  • Spinach
  • Edamame
  • Tofu
  • Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Salmon
  • Green Beans
  • Black Rice
  • Kale 
  • Squash
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Peanut Butter

The above, of course, is not an exhaustive list. Leafy greens and lean meats—along with a diet of whole, unprocessed foods—will elevate your hemoglobin level, and strengthen your health.

Maintaining an Optimal Hemoglobin Level

When you've reached the healthy hemoglobin range, it's imperative to maintain it. Along with maintaining an iron- and folate-rich diet, daily cardiovascular exercise—at least 10 minutes, or short bursts, daily of brisk walking running, cycling, and similar activity—will raise hemoglobin count, and ensure sufficient oxygen levels (Min & Lin, 2012). Additionally, deep, mindful breathing will also aid in raising hemoglobin level, and maintaining sufficient oxygen.

With the right foods, exercise, and routine, your body will always have the hemoglobin, and the air, to go full blast.

Works Consulted

Abbaspour, N., Hurrell, R., & Kelishadi, R. (2014). Review on iron and its importance for human health. Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, 19(2), 164-174.

Badior, K.E. & Casey, J.R. (2017). Molecular mechanism for the red blood cell senescence clock. IUBMB Life, 70(1), 32-40.

Fehrer, J. (2012). White blood cells and inflammation. In J. Fehrer's Quantitative Human Physiology (2nd ed.) (Unit 5.3).

Friar, G. (2017). Make way for hemoglobin.

Giardina, B., Messana, R.S., & Castagnola, M. (1995). The multiple functions of hemoglobin. Critical Reviews in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 30(3), 165-196. DOI: 10.3109/10409239509085142

Holzner, B., Kemmler, G., & Greil, R.. (2002). The impact of hemoglobin levels on fatigue and quality of life in cancer patients. Annals of Oncology, 13(6), 965-973. 

Koupenova, M., Livada, A.C., & Morrell, C.N. (2022). Platelet and megakaryocyte roles in innate and adaptive immunity. Circulation Research, 130(2), 288-308.

Malara, A., Abbonante, V., Di Buduo, C.A., Tozzi, L., Currao, M., & Balduini, A. (2016). The secret life of a megakaryocyte: Emerging roles in bone marrow homeostasis control. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences, 72(8), 1517-1536.

Mandel, J., Casari, M., Stepanyan, M., Martyanov, A., & Depperman, C. (2022). Beyond homeostasis: Platelet innate immune interactions and thromboinflammation. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 23(7), 3868. 

Medical News Today. (2018). How to increase hemoglobin: Home remedies.

Min, H. & Lin, W. (2012). Effects of exercise training on red blood cell production: Implications for Anemia. Acta Haematalogica, 127(3), 156-164.

Morton, J.M. & George, J.N. (2016). Microangiopathic hemolytic anemia and throbocytopenia in patients with cancer. Journal of Oncology Practice, 12(6), 532-530.

Scherlinger, M., Richez, C., Tsokos, G.C., Boilard, E., & Blanco, P. (2023). The role of platelets in immune-related inflammatory disease. Nature Reviews Immunology, 23, 495-510.

Seminal Wellness, LLC. (2023). Fortify your defenses: Platelets and how to optimize their count.


Farah Arnstead

Date 8/8/2023

Seminal Wellness Team

Date 8/8/2023

Matt Geota

Date 8/10/2023

Seminal Wellness Team

Date 8/10/2023


Date 8/10/2023

Seminal Wellness Team

Date 8/10/2023

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