Luigi Gratton: A Lifelong Commitment to the American Red Cross

By Luigi Gratton, M.D., M.P.H., vice president, Nutrition Education and Development, Herbalife Nutrition
March 16, 2017

Even as a student at Los Angeles’ Loyola High School, I understood the importance of the Red Cross. One of the school’s traditions is giving back to the community, and I chose to volunteer at the Red Cross, giving cookies and juice to people who had just donated blood.

The Red Cross was my first exposure to anything health-care related, even before I really considered medical school. The experience of contributing to the Red Cross’ life-saving work, left a powerful impression on me. The people who worked for the Red Cross were the most amazing folks to me because they were all volunteering their time, a concept that I was learning. It was kind of like my early introduction to what hands-on health care is. People who are giving of themselves. People are taking care of others.

And now, 30 years later, as the American Red Cross celebrates its 100th birthday, I continue to work with the organization on the board for the Los Angeles Region. My appreciation for the work they do—which includes disaster preparation and recovery, as well as installing smoke alarms in underserved neighborhoods—has only deepened. Over the years, they’ve gone into more crisis management in terms of fires and earthquake preparedness. When there’s a tsunami or a tornado or a flood, they’re on the scene. They’re not just ‘the blood people’ anymore for me, I’ve learned that.

Part of my mission on the board’s philanthropy committee is to step up financial and in-kind support from the community. Fortunately, I know some of the most supportive folks around—Herbalife Nutrition independent distributors and customers. We do a good job raising money at events with our distributors. Our distributors are very generous,

I help to oversee Herbalife Nutrition’s commitment to the Red Cross. Though Herbalife Nutrition has been involved since 2006 by hosting blood drives around the country, a major initiative launched in September 2015 when the company agreed to donate more than 280,000 protein bars with a retail value of $500,000.

The Protein Connection

Anyone who’s donated blood knows you get a “reward” afterward—usually cookies or a granola bar and juice or water, maybe a piece of fruit. But consuming something with protein is even better, because it helps stabilize your blood sugar. You don’t get a pop and drop, a spike and trough. You get a very smooth gradual blood sugar rise and a gradual fall. Good post-donation options include nuts and nut butters, yogurt, cheese, beans, lean meats and fish.

If you’re planning on donating blood, it helps to keep in mind your sugar/protein ratio. Breakfast foods such as oatmeal or cereal are fine, but watch out for loading up your coffee with cream and sugar, and chasing it with a sugary muffin or Danish. There’s an immediate insulin effect. Insulin sucks that blood sugar up into the tissues. It’s like cars getting on the freeway. You get jam-packed, it drops off, and there’s none. People get very tired, sleepy, and sort of fatigued. Fruit, for example, is better than baked goods or a candy bar, because the fiber slows down sugar metabolism the same way protein does.

Getting Involved

There’s room at the Red Cross for anyone who wants to help. I think people want to feel more connected to something and the Red Cross is a wonderful way to do that.

Learn more about volunteering or donating to the Red Cross.

Leave a Reply