While our body needs iron to function properly, a recent study has found that too much iron in our brains may be a cause of Alzheimer’s disease.
Learn more about how measuring iron levels could predict your Alzheimer’s risk, as well as what this finding could mean for potential new treatment methods.
Iron is important to overall health and well-being, with its main role being to provide hemoglobin which helps properly oxygenate cells throughout the body. Without enough iron one may feel tired, have decreased immunity, and even become anemic. However, too much iron can cause a danger to the body by damaging body tissues and bringing serious health concerns, including Alzheimer’s.
Knowing that previous studies have found higher levels of iron in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s, researchers at the University of Melbourne in Australia studied what those iron levels meant and if higher iron levels in the brain made someone more likely to develop Alzheimer’s.
The research team observed 144 seniors who had mild cognitive impairment (MCI) for seven years and measured the iron present in each person’s brain. To do this, the team measured the amount of ferritin, a protein which binds to iron, in the cerebrospinal fluid. The team found that those with higher levels of iron at the beginning of the study were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s earlier than those with lower levels. Participants were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s three months earlier on average for every nanogram per milliliter of iron that people had at the beginning of the study.
Since finding that higher iron levels in the brain could mean earlier onset of Alzheimer’s one may wonder if medication that reduces iron in the brain could delay the disease. Researchers caution that one does not necessarily mean the other and that reducing iron levels does not necessarily decrease the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
However, a study done over 20 years ago tested a drug that had success in reducing the rate of cognitive decline from Alzheimer’s by 50%.
Research team member Scott Ayton thinks it may be time to revisit anti-iron drugs saying:
“Perhaps it’s time to refocus the field on looking at iron as a target.”
What do you think about the connection between higher levels of iron in the brain and Alzheimer’s? Have you see any evidence of this in your loved one?