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Can We Ward Off Anemia with The Paleo Diet?

By Casey Thaler, B.A., NASM-CPT, FNS
December 2, 2014
Can We Ward Off Anemia with The Paleo Diet? image

Anemia is a condition that is all too common in the world.1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 Many individuals, who are vegan or vegetarian, end up with some form of anemia. Whether this is due to lack of iron, vitamin B12, or other deficiencies – the end result is roughly the same., 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 Because a Paleo Diet is rich in vitamin B12 and iron, it begs the question - can we ward off anemia with the Paleo Diet?

Can We Ward Off Anemia with The Paleo Diet? image
Can We Ward Off Anemia with The Paleo Diet? image

The short answer: Yes. The longer (and more complex) answer: Usually. Between the complexity and poor understanding of the condition, the different, and the sometimes hereditary nature,15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 this is a condition which is quite complex.

Can We Ward Off Anemia with The Paleo Diet? image

To start, there are variable definitions of anemia, but the most widely accepted is ‘a condition where the number of red blood cells in the blood is below normal’.22 This is the main definition upon which we will focus. Red blood cell production can be low, and oftentimes, this is due to dietary requirements not being met.23, 24, 25, 26 However, intervening with improved nutrition can prove beneficial.

Iron deficiency is the main statistical cause of anemia, and incorporating iron-rich foods into your diet is a great way to improve your anemic condition27, 28 Iron-rich foods include: chicken, turkey, fish, meats (liver is the highest source), spinach, and kale.29 Those well-accustomed to the Paleo Diet will note that these foods form the basis of many Paleo recipes.30, 31 This is not an accident, as the Paleo Diet will provide the most nutrients, and give the best physiologic results, out of any approach to eating. 32

Can We Ward Off Anemia with The Paleo Diet? image
Can We Ward Off Anemia with The Paleo Diet? image

The amount of iron required for daily renewal of red blood cells (20-30 mg) is provided mostly by senescent erythrocyte iron recycling at macrophages.33, 34 This small required amount is usually why supplementing with iron is a poor idea, especially with the relative ease at which it is possible to intervene by dietary means.

Besides iron deficiency, vitamin B12 deficiency can also lead to anemia.35 Meat, eggs, fish, and shellfish are also great sources for vitamin B12.36 A diet devoid of these foods directly correlates to the growing number of vegetarian and vegan anemics.

Can We Ward Off Anemia with The Paleo Diet? image
Can We Ward Off Anemia with The Paleo Diet? image

From the figure to the right, we see anemia has declined since 1990.37 Public awareness of the condition has gone up, as well as advancements in the supplement industry’s budget. These factors have helped some become more aware of this debilitating condition.

Age relation with respect to anemia is also interesting, as it seems to play a more significant role than one might suspect. We see that as adults move into their thirties and forties, their risk of anemia goes up. Neglecting diet, when one is focused mainly on career advancement and other pressures that cause high stress, are potentially related.

Yet, while cases of anemia have declined since the ‘90s, the global implications for anemia are surprisingly higher than one might suspect.38, 39, 40 Anemia is still responsible for 68.3 million years of life lived with disability.

While it is near impossible to calculate anemia’s exact effects, with more than 20 diseases linked to its development, you can take preventative measures to meet iron and vitamin B12 dietary requirements. The best course of action is following a delicious and nutritious Paleo Diet and start cooking delicious Paleo recipes, which are available in The Paleo Diet Recipe Library!

Can We Ward Off Anemia with The Paleo Diet? image
Can We Ward Off Anemia with The Paleo Diet? image


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[15] Available at: // Accessed November 18, 2014.

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[22] Available at: // Accessed November 18, 2014.

[23] Kaniewska M, Bartnik W, Gonciarz M, et al. Iron deficiency anaemia in patients with inflammatory bowel disease: National Consultant for Gastroenterology Working Group Recommendations. Prz Gastroenterol. 2014;9(5):259-63.

[24] Pisani A, Riccio E, Sabbatini M, Andreucci M, Del rio A, Visciano B. Effect of oral liposomal iron versus intravenous iron for treatment of iron deficiency anaemia in CKD patients: a randomized trial. Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2014;

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[32] Boers I, Muskiet FA, Berkelaar E, et al. Favourable effects of consuming a Palaeolithic-type diet on characteristics of the metabolic syndrome: a randomized controlled pilot-study. Lipids Health Dis. 2014;13:160.

[33] Iolascon A, De falco L, Beaumont C. Molecular basis of inherited microcytic anemia due to defects in iron acquisition or heme synthesis. Haematologica. 2009;94(3):395-408.

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[35] Watanabe S, Ide N, Ogawara H, et al. High Percentage of Regulatory T Cells before and after Vitamin B12 Treatment in Patients with Pernicious Anemia. Acta Haematol. 2014;133(1):83-88.

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[39] Kassebaum NJ, Jasrasaria R, Naghavi M, et al. A systematic analysis of global anemia burden from 1990 to 2010. Blood. 2014;123(5):615-24.

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