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Iron and brain functions

Murray-Kolb, Laura E.

Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care: November 2013 - Volume 16 - Issue 6 - p 703–707
doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e3283653ef8
MICRONUTRIENTS: Edited by Gil Hardy and Henry C. Lukaski

Purpose of review: The purpose of this study is to highlight recent research findings that advance our understanding of the relation between iron status and neural functioning.

Recent findings: Recent findings have helped to answer questions pertaining to the interrelationship of iron and neural functioning in three primary areas: reversibility of changes occurring with early-life iron deficiency, association of severity of deficiency with negative outcomes and underlying mechanisms responsible for the cognitive and behavioural changes seen with iron deficiency. Results of recent studies indicate long-term negative consequences of early-life iron deficiency that may be irreversible and these negative consequences may be encountered by those with iron deficiency that has not yet reached the point of anaemia, indicating the likelihood that iron deficiency and not simply hypoxia from iron deficiency anaemia is causing the observed cognitive and behavioural alterations. Finally, recent studies have advanced our understanding of the underlying mechanisms by using animal models that isolate the deficiency to the hippocampus in addition to models that generate a whole-body iron deficiency.

Summary: These advances should help to inform policy, particularly with respect to preventing and treating iron deficiency and, thereby, improve the health status of millions of individuals worldwide.

Department of Nutritional Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA

Correspondence to Laura E. Murray-Kolb, Department of Nutritional Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University, 110 Chandlee Lab, University Park, PA 16802, USA. Tel: +1 814 63 132; fax: +1 814 63 6103; e-mail:

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