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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Mineral and Vitamin Interventions for At-risk Populations

Location: Obesity and Metabolism Research Unit

Title: Body iron is associated with cognitive executive planning function in college women

Authors
item Blanton, Cynthia -
item Green, Michael -
item Kretsch, Mary

Submitted to: British Journal of Nutrition
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: April 27, 2011
Publication Date: May 4, 2012
Citation: Blanton, C.A., Green, M., Kretsch, M.J. 2012. Body iron is associated with cognitive executive planning function in college women. British Journal of Nutrition. p. 1-8.

Interpretive Summary: The reason for conducting this study was to examine the relationship between body iron, in the absence of iron-deficiency anemia, and cognitive function in young college women. A body of evidence supports a negative impact of reduced iron status on mental function in women of reproductive age and children, but little is known about this link in college women. In this study, healthy, non-anemic undergraduate women (n=42) provided a blood sample and completed a standardized cognitive test battery consisting of one manual [Tower of London (TOL), a measure of central executive function] and five computerized tasks. Womens’ body iron ranged from -4.2 to 8.1 mg/kg. Statistical analyses revealed a significant effect of body iron on TOL planning time (P=0.002). There was also a significant inverse relationship between body iron and TOL planning time for move categories 4 (r=-0.39, P=0.01), and 5 (r=-0.47, P=0.002). Performance on the computerized cognitive tasks was not affected by body iron level. These findings suggest that iron status in the absence of anemia is positively associated with central executive function in otherwise healthy college women. The results are significant in showing that a relatively common nutrient deficiency in females might negatively impact academic performance during higher education.

Technical Abstract: Evidence of the relationship between altered cognitive function and depleted Fe status is accumulating in women of reproductive age but the degree of Fe deficiency associated with negative neuropsychological outcomes needs to be delineated. Data are limited regarding this relationship in university women in whom optimal cognitive function is critical to academic success. The aim of the present study was to examine the relationship between body Fe, in the absence of Fe-deficiency anaemia, and europsychological function in young college women. Healthy, non-anaemic undergraduate women (n=42) provided a blood sample and completed a standardised cognitive test battery consisting of one manual (Tower of London (TOL), a measure of central executive function) and five computerised (Bakan vigilance task, mental rotation, simple reaction time, immediate word recall and two-finger tapping) tasks. Women’s body Fe ranged from 24·2 to 8·1 mg/kg. General linear model ANOVA revealed a significant effect of body Fe on TOL planning time (P=0·002). Spearman’s correlation coefficients showed a significant inverse relationship between body Fe and TOL planning time for move categories 4 (r-0·39, P=0·01) and 5 (r-0·47, P=0·002). Performance on the computerised cognitive tasks was not affected by body Fe level. These findings suggest that Fe status in the absence of anaemia is positively associated with central executive function in otherwise healthy college women.

Last Modified: 11/27/2014
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