New research on impact of iron intake on brain development has revealed that besides causing neurodegenerative diseases, deficiency of iron in the teen years can affect the brain’s physical structure later on in the life of a person. It throws more light on the already known fact that lack of iron can lead to neurodegenerative diseases.
This research was carried out by a team of UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) professor along with his colleagues. Paul Thompson, UCLA neurology professor, tested the biochemical changes occurring in the subjects that helped to shed light on the nerve mechanism by which iron has an impact on cognitive abilities of a person, besides neurodevelopment and neurodegeneration.
Iron has always been associated with brain function, along with its transporting proteins. Deficiency of iron is one of the most widespread nutritional deficiencies throughout the world, especially in school going children. Although not as common as iron deficiency, its overload in the body can be as harmful if not more. High iron density in the brain has been linked to many life threatening disorders such as Huntington disease, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
According to Thompson, a healthy wiring of brain in adults is a result of good iron levels during teenage years. This link was more important than initially realised as the results of their findings were carried out on people who were healthy and young, without any iron deficiency. They mapped the brains of adolescents when they were 12, 14 and 16 years of age to determine the availability of iron to the brain.
It was clear in their analysis that the subjects who showed the signs of poor iron levels had structural changes in the brain which made it more prone to neurodegeneration in the future. Moreover, genetic structures were also identified which influence the body neurology and brain structure and predispose it to be deficient of iron.
The most remarkable aspect of this research was that predisposition to neurological degradation could be predicted in people who were healthy and normal. The need for healthy iron-rich food in the teenage years has been found to be very significant and further studies in this area. The research has advanced our understanding of the causes and symptoms that are associated with brain function and the risk of neurodegeneration.