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Your MCHC can help diagnose blood and iron disorders. Keep reading to find out about how high and low MCHC can affect your health, and how to increase or decrease it.
What is MCHC?
Mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration (MCHC) is the average amount of hemoglobin per red blood cell, relative to the size of the cell. In other words, it tells you what percentage of your blood cells are made up of hemoglobin, the protein that helps transport oxygen in the blood [R, R].
In short, MCHC is an indirect measure of how much hemoglobin you have. The added value of this test over direct hemoglobin is that it adjusts for the rate of production of red blood cells [R+].
In many cases, when hemoglobin production is reduced, the production of red blood cells is likewise reduced. However, in some cases, hemoglobin production can be reduced, while red blood cell production can increase. This can help differentiate one condition from another [R+].
GI bleeding is an example where both hemoglobin and red blood cells may be reduced in a similar fashion [R+].
However, in iron deficiency, hemoglobin can go down, while red blood cells can be less affected. In these cases, MCHC would be lower than GI bleeding [R+].
MCHC normally ranges from 320 – 360 g/l [R].
A low mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration (MCHC) can cause hypochromia (“hypo-” = low, “chromia” = color), or paler red blood cells. Hypochromia is an indicator of anemia [R].
Causes of Low MCHC
1) Iron Deficiency
One of the most common causes of low MCHC is iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia [R, R]. Iron is necessary to produce hemoglobin, so if you are deficient in iron, you will produce less hemoglobin for each given red blood cell.
Reticulocytes are immature red blood cells; reticulocytosis occurs when there is a high level of reticulocytes in the blood. Since reticulocytes have less hemoglobin in each cell relative to the size than mature red blood cells, they can lower your overall MCHC [R].
Many different types of infection can also reduce MCHC, such as:
Infections cause inflammation, which in turn causes people to produce less hemoglobin. Presumably, in these infections hemoglobin is being reduced more than red blood cells, so MCHC is lower.
Consequences of Low MCHC
Low MCHC is Associated with Depression
Insufficient hemoglobin and depression share several symptoms and often occur in the same patients [R].
Women with low MCHC have a greater risk of developing depression symptoms, and it’s a better predictor than low hemoglobin [R].
Low MCHC Increases Death Risk
Low MCHC is associated with poorer outcome and a higher risk of death in heart attack patients [R].
Ways to Increase MCHC
Eat a healthy and nutritious diet. In order to prevent nutrient deficiency, it is important that your diet contains the recommended amount of iron. If you are iron-deficient, eat more iron-rich foods include liver, meat, fish, and eggs [R, R].
A high mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration (MCHC) can cause hyperchromia, or darker colored red blood cells [R].
Causes of High MCHC
1) Vitamin Deficiency
Vitamin B12 deficiency increases MCHC [R].
The reason is because B12 deficiency can cause a decrease in red blood cells, but there does not decrease hemoglobin [R].
Hemolysis is the rupture or destruction of red blood cells. It is one of the most common causes of increased MCHC [R, R]. This is because red blood cells are decreasing, while hemoglobin is relatively unchanged.
3) Hereditary Spherocytosis
Hereditary spherocytosis (HS) is a condition with red blood cells being destroyed and jaundice. During HS, red blood cells become thicker and MCHC increases. HS patients have significantly higher MCHC than healthy people [R].
4) Cold Agglutinins
Ways to Decrease MCHC
If you are deficient, you should increase your dietary intake of foods that are rich in vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is abundant in meat products including chicken, turkey, lamb, beef, and pork liver [R].
Smoking (nicotine) can also lower B12 levels [R].
People go to their doctor to get their MCHC tested as part of a standard panel. Almost always, the results are not scrutinized, even though we know that you can be healthier and live longer when your results lie within optimal ranges. When I used to go to doctors and tried to discuss my results, they had no clue what these meant from a health perspective. All they cared about was whether they could diagnose me with some disease. This is why we created Lab Test Analyzer, a tool that easily lets you know which lab results you need to be concerned about, and how to bring these within the optimal range.