Haemoglobin - An important molecule supporting your body

History -

Haemoglobin, or simply hemoglobin, is the protein molecule responsible for making blood red which is named by combining the Greek word for blood Haima with the idea of globs,

haemoglobin discovered

This protein was discovered in 1840 by Friedrich Ludwig Hunefeld, a member of the German Biochemistry Association, according to "Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry" by David Nelson and Michael Cox.

This discovery was made while viewing the blood of an earthworm. Pressed between two glass slides, the blood was allowed to dry and crystallize.

Hunefeld reported, “I have occasionally seen in almost dried blood, placed between glass plates in a desiccator, rectangular crystalline structures, which under the microscope had sharp edges and were bright red." These structures were hemoglobin.

This molecule and other molecules with similar function and structure are found in nearly all vertebrates, many invertebrates like earthworms, as well as some plants and fungi.

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Introduction -

haemoglobin production

Red blood contains a protein called haemoglobin. But have you thought on what are these red blood cells ? To understand this clearly lets take a quick glance at function of bone marrow. Bone marrow is the spongy tissue inside some of your bones, such as your hip and thigh bones. It contains stem cells.

These stem cells develop into the red blood cells that carry oxygen through your body and the main function of red blood cells is the transport of oxygen from the lungs to the body's cells. Ninety-seven percent of the oxygen carried by the blood from the lungs is carried through hemoglobin and the other 3 percent is dissolved in the plasma

Haemoglobin type is inherited through family genes. The color of your hair, the color of your eyes, and your hemoglobin type are all examples of things that are determined by genes. You receive one gene for hemoglobin type from your mother and one from your father.

Haemoglobin is the main part of red blood cells and helps in maintaining the shape of the red blood cells. Red blood cells are round with narrow centers resembling a donut without a hole in the middle. Abnormal hemoglobin structure can, therefore, disrupt the shape of red blood cells and impede their function and flow through blood vessel.

Relation between iron and haemoglobin

To attain normal haemoglobin level in the blood, iron levels need to be maintained and is involved in the following functions in the body:

  • It is a component of haemoglobin and myoglobin and delivers adequate amount of oxygen for sustenance of life.

  • It is a cofactor of many enzymes which carry out several vital functions in the body like immune functions and cognitive behaviour i.e mental action or process of acquiring knowledge.

Besides, it also plays an important role in hemoglobin production. A protein called transferrin binds to iron and transports it throughout the body. This helps the body make red blood cells, which contain hemoglobin.

Two thirds of body iron is present in circulating red blood cells as hemoglobin. Each gram of hemoglobin contains 3.47 mg of iron thus, each mL of blood lost from the body (hemoglobin 15 g/dL) results in a loss of 0.5 mg of iron.

Foods high in vitamin C also are recommended because vitamin C helps your body absorb iron. Cooking in iron pots can add up to 80 percent more iron to your foods.

Hence, body needs iron to make hemoglobin and when there isn’t enough iron in the blood stream, the rest of the body can’t get the amount of oxygen it needs which leads to iron deficiency named Anemia.

Some people may be at greater risk of iron deficiency anemia than others, including:

  • women of childbearing age

  • pregnant women

  • people with unhealthy diets

  • people who donate blood frequently

  • infants and children, especially those born prematurely or experiencing a growth spurt

  • Vegetarians who don’t replace meat with another iron-rich foods

Normal Hemoglobin Values

  • Male: 13.8 to 17.2 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or 138 to 172 grams per liter (g/L)

  • Female: 12.1 to 15.1 g/dL or 121 to 151 g/L

Normal results for children vary, but in general are:

  • Newborn: 14 to 24 g/dL or 140 to 240 g/L

  • Infant: 9.5 to 13 g/dL or 95 to 130 g

Why do I need the Hgb test?

The Hgb test may be recommended as part of a complete blood count (CBC) test. A CBC test also measures other important components of your blood, such as white blood cells and platelets.

Also can help detect problems like a disease or medical condition such as the liver or kidney is working properly or not.

Here are a few other reasons your doctor may order an Hgb test:

  • You have parents or other family members who have blood disorders, such as sickle cell anemia.

  • You have an infection.

  • You’ve lost a lot of blood after surgery or a traumatic injury.

  • You’re pregnant

  • Less blood flow during menstruation

Low Hemoglobin

Symptoms -

  • Dizziness

  • Unusual heartbeat

  • Frequent Headache

  • Problems with growth, for children and teens

  • Skin that’s pale or yellow

  • Frequently getting tired or feel weakness throughout the day without any exertion work.

Causes -

  • Severe blood loss after surgery or a major injury

  • Internal bleeding from stomach ulcers, stomach or colon cancer, or internal injuries

  • Sickle cell anemia, a genetic condition that causes red blood cells to be abnormally sickle-shaped and able to carry less Hgb

  • Hypothyroidism

  • Splenomegaly, or an enlarged spleen from infection, liver conditions, or cancer

  • Bone marrow conditions, such as leukemia, that prevent your bone marrow from producing enough red blood cells

  • Chronic kidney disease, in which your kidneys don’t function properly (resulting in a deficiency of erythropoietin, a hormone that stimulates red blood cell production in your bone marrow)

Other causes can include:

  • Donating blood too often

  • Heavy bleeding during your period

  • Alcohol misuse

low haemoglobin levels



Low haemoglobin leads to Anemia. It is also called as Anaemia which decreases the total amount of red blood cells (RBCs) or hemoglobin in the blood, or a lowered ability of the blood to carry oxygen.

Anemia can usually be confirmed with a CBC ( complete blood count) test. Besides, doctor might recommend additional blood tests to determine how severe your anemia is and help determine treatments.They may also examine your blood through a microscope.

These blood tests will provide information, including:

  • Iron level in your blood i.e this blood test helps doctor to understand if your iron level is too low, you could have anemia.

  • RBC size and color (RBCs are pale if they’re deficient in iron)

  • Ferritin levels i.e this test helps doctor to understand how much iron your body stores.

  • Total iron-binding capacity (TIBC) i.e this blood test helps doctor to understand to see if you have too much or too little iron in your blood. Iron moves through the blood attached to a protein called transferrin and helps your health care provider know how well that protein can carry iron in your blood.

High Hemoglobin


  • itchiness

  • headache

  • dizziness

  • getting easily bruised or bleeding

  • sweating more than usual

  • painful joint swelling

  • abnormal weight loss

  • a yellow tint to the eyes and skin (jaundice)

  • feeling exhausted

  • a purple or reddish tint to the skin


  • Living at high altitudes with no much oxygen in the air, such as in the mountains

  • Smoking tobacco products, including cigarettes or cigars

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a condition that inflames the lungs and blocks air from getting into your lungs

  • Heart or lung diseases that affect your ability to breathe and pass oxygen into your bloodstream.

Other causes include:

  • being severely dehydrated

  • heart failure

  • cancer of the liver or kidneys

elevated haemoglobin

How to boosts Haemoglobin to normal level ?

1. Increasing Iron intake

Haemoglobin is an iron-rich protein present in the red blood cells and If you don't have enough iron then body can't make enough healthy oxygen-carrying red blood cells. Lets list few foods with good proportion of iron content. They are as follows -

  • Fruits - Beetroot, pomegranate, watermelon, apple, apricot, oranges, strawberries, papaya, grape fruit, banana, peach, persimmons, mulberries, guava, litchis, kiwi,

  • Vegetables - spinach, tofu, asparagus, broccoli, green peas, tomatoes, bell peppers, cauliflower, potatoes, fenugreek leaves, beans.

  • Animal products - Whole egg, chicken liver, oysters, meat, seafood, red lean meat, clams.

  • Other products include dates, almonds, amla, raisins, prunes, pumpkin seeds, dried beans, Nettle, wheat germ, sprouts, peanuts, colocasia leaves, soyabeans, currants, legumes( soya nuts, red kidney beans, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, black beans, lentils, fava beans) starch and grains, brown rice, dark chocolates, whole grains, yogurt, daal , rajma, sesame seeds

Below are one of the best iron rich foods -

iron rich foods

2. Increasing folate intake

It is type of vitamin B that plays an essential part in hemoglobin production and produces enough red blood cells and if you don't have enough red blood cells, you have anemia. Red blood cells carry oxygen to all parts of your body. When you have anemia, your blood can't bring enough oxygen to all your tissues and organs.

folate rich foods

3. Increase Vitamin C Intake

It is important to have a combination of both iron and vitamin C as the latter is a carrier rich molecule that can be used for better absorption of iron. Eat foods rich in vitamin C such as oranges, lemon, strawberries, papaya, bell peppers, broccoli, grapefruit and tomatoes

vitamin C

4. Drink Nettle Tea

nettle tea

“Nettle is a herb that is a good source of B vitamins, iron, vitamin C and can play play a major role in elevating the hemoglobin levels in your body says Dr. Adarsh Kumar, Internal Medicine, National Heart Institute.

Recipe - Add 2 teaspoons of dried nettle leaves to a cup of hot water and allow it to steep for 10 minutes. Then strain, and add a little honey. Drink this twice daily.

5. Exercise


Improving blood circulation is a surefire way to increase your haemoglobin production since your body creates more red blood cells to meet the demand for increased oxygenation to various parts. Aerobic exercises like walking,jogging,swimming,biking and dancing helps in the blood cell formation which is also known as haematopoiesis. More blood cells mean more haemoglobin.

6. Avoid foods that block iron absorption in the body

tannin, calcium and phytate

Our body stores iron from our diet in the muscles, liver and bone marrow. Nevertheless people may sometimes dip too low iron plays a major role in the production of red blood cells, and a deficiency may lead to fatigue, reduced concentration or low energy.

Although you think you’re getting sufficient iron from your diet, some foods actually block absorption. And one of such is calcium and it is a major iron blocker in the body. So calcium supplements should be taken about an hour earlier or after iron intake as it hinders iron absorption in the body. Other iron blockers are foods rich in tannins such as tea, coffee, wine, beer, cola and aerated drinks.

Conclusion -

Many people can boost their hemoglobin levels from a few weeks to almost a year depending on the underlying cause and dietary changes.

However, if you have medical history of diabetes,high blood pressure and any other heart disease then its recommended to consult medical practitioner to make changes in the diet.

On flip side it is equally important to every healthy individuals because slight changes in lifestyle can have effect on haemoglobin levels.

For instance if any person who is use to sedentary lifestyle suddenly starts with high intensity workout daily might lead to body pains, stress etc will fluctuate haemoglobin levels.

Sometimes its okay to ignore and continue active lifestyle. But sometimes its not good as more ignorance greater the dogmatism.










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