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What Not To Eat When You Have Thalassemia?

Thalassemia is a genetic disease characterized by deficiency of hemoglobin and red blood cells due to their repeated destruction. It is passed in families in form of mutated genes from generation to generation. The condition causes anemia in the body which needs a regular blood transfusion. The common symptoms of the condition are extreme tiredness, dark urine and many more.1 Thalassemia patients may suffer from iron overload due to regular blood transfusion. The diet should be managed for such patients in such a way that iron levels do not increase in the body.

What Not To Eat When You Have Thalassemia?

Thalassemia condition requires regular transfusion of blood to maintain the normal levels of the hemoglobin and red blood cells. This sometimes results in overloading of iron in the body.2 So, the diet should be managed in such patients that iron levels cannot increase more than normal. The food that can cause elevate in iron levels in the body should be avoided.

If you have thalassemia, you should eliminate the following from your diet. Do not eat:

  • Meat should not be eaten as its iron gets easily absorbed in the body.
  • Iron utensils as they supply a trace amount of iron to the food in each cooking.
  • Proteins such as oysters, liver, pork, beans, beef, peanut butter, tofu
  • Grains such as tortilla flour, infant cereal, malt
  • Fruits such as orange, prunes, watermelon, dates, raisins
  • Vegetables such as spinach, green leafy vegetables, peas, broccoli3

The food that can decrease the absorption of iron should be included in the diet. These food items are beneficial for the thalassemia patients.

Cereals. wheat bran, oats, maize, soy, and rice slow down the absorption of iron in the body when a rich source of the vitamin is consumed with them. Proteins found in soy reduce the absorption of iron in the body.4

Tea, Coffee, Spice. thalassemia patients should consume tea and coffee more as they reduce the absorption of iron.

Dairy Products. dairy products disturb absorption of the iron. Thalassemia patients should take milk, yogurt, cheese, and other milk products.5

Food Rich In Vitamin E. a food rich in vitamin E can cause less absorption of iron in the body.

Food Rich In Calcium. calcium blocks the absorption of iron from the food. Thalassemia patients should have high calcium food to avoid the overloading of iron in the body due to regular blood transfusion.

Thalassemia is one of the blood disorders that lead to the destruction of red blood cells in the body. In thalassemia, the body is not able to produce sufficient red blood cells as compared to the destruction. This results in the deficiency of hemoglobin in our body. Hemoglobin is responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs to different parts of the body. This thereby results in anemia in the body. Anemia is a condition in which there is a lack of healthy red blood cells in the body.

Thalassemia is inherited from one or both parents who carry the defective genes. These mutated genes cause the destruction of red blood cells at a higher rate than normal. This leads to a reduction in the levels of hemoglobin in the body. It depends on the number of defective genes inherited from the parents.6

Thalassemia patients may require regular transfusion to maintain the levels of hemoglobin. Regular Blood transfusion can cause deposition of iron in the body. This leads to overloading of iron in the liver which may get deposited in the heart and pituitary gland. This may result in serious consequences.


Thalassemia is marked by low levels of hemoglobin and red blood cells in the body that requires a regular blood transfusion. Iron levels get elevated more than normal due to regular transfusion. So, the diet of thalassemia patients should be managed as discussed above to avoid iron overload in the body. Food that can elevate iron levels should be eliminated from the diet.


Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:January 20, 2022

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