©2018 Mahoning Valley Water Inc.  The Gift of Life      This is the time of year when we begin looking for that perfect gift to give to someone we love.  Ok, now the problems start.  Hey Dad, is there anything special you’d like.  No, I don’t need anything.  I know you don’t need anything, but is there anything you’d like?  No, I can’t think of anything.  OK! We’re off to a really good start.        I don’t know about you, but it’s a whole lot easier for me to give the perfect gift to someone I don’t know, and, as a matter of fact, to someone I will probably never even meet.  You know which gift I mean.  The Gift of Life—Blood.      For quite some time now, several of us donate blood regularly.  When I made my last appointment, the nurse mentioned that for some reason, quite a few donors had to be turned down because their iron levels were too low.  She asked me to make sure I ate some red meat and told me not to drink any tea for a few days before my appointment.   So what does tea have to do with donating blood?           I just absolutely love the internet.   I asked for a search on blood donating and it took me right to Cornell University’s nutrition department where it answered my question on tea.      It appears that certain foods inhibit iron absorption, whether from foods or from supplements.  Among the foods that inhibit iron absorption, black tea is the most potent.  Black tea contains tannins, which are chemical compounds which bind with both the iron in the food that you eat and the iron you take as a supplement, thereby preventing your intestine from absorbing iron.      Tannins are found in plants of all kinds, but certain plants and plant parts have a very high content of tannins.  Apparently plants, and especially their outer surfaces such as bark or the skin of fruits, contains tannins to help fend off insects.        Tannins occur naturally in coffee and in wines as well as in tea.  Tannins are added to beer to clarify it.  Proteins in beer cause the beer to be cloudy and the tannins cause the proteins to clump up and settle to the bottom of the brewing vats where they can be removed.  Tannins are added as flavorings to different foods such as butter, maple, caramel and fruit when they are added to sweet foods like candy and ice cream.  However, the amount of tannins in these foods is probably too low to cause difficulties with iron absorption.      Our saliva contains special proteins called proline-rich proteins or PRPs which bind to tannins and may decrease the amount of “active tannins”  that may bind iron or cause other proteins such as digestive proteins to become bound with tannins.       People differ considerably in the amount of PRPs they secrete in their saliva and so may differ considerably in the extent  to which tea may affect their iron status.  However, if you drink a lot of tea, you may overcome the ability of your saliva’s PRPs to protect you against tannins, so you will be less able to absorb the iron in the rest of your diet.      The best source of iron is red meat and the red meat at your meal also increases your body’s ability to absorb iron from the other foods at your meal.  Iron is easily absorbed from citrus fruits, tomatoes, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, pumpkin and turnips but the iron content of these foods is quite low.      Beans, spinach, peaches, plums and apples all have a high iron content but the absorption of iron from these fruits and vegetables is poor. (Oh no, was Popeye wrong!!??)   Not only that, but they can inhibit the absorption of iron from other foods.   And that means that we can’t depend on the iron content listed on the label to tell us how much iron we are actually getting in our system.        If you are concerned that you may not be getting enough iron in your system, please see your physician.   For more information, you can go to www.nutrition.cornell.edu/nutriquest.      And don’t forget to donate a pint of blood.  You never know, that life you save may be someone you know and love.  What greater gift can you possibly give?   MAHONING VALLEY WATER