Food and Behaviour Research

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Lead and Neuroprotection by Iron in ADHD

Konofal E, Cortese S. (2007) Environ Health Perspect.  115(8): A398-9; author reply A399. 

Web URL: View this paper online via PubMed here. Free full text is available online.


No abstract is available, but free full text of this short article is available online.

It is a commentary in response to another paper on the toxic effects of lead on brain development and function.


Lead exposure, particularly during prenatal development and early life, is known to increase the risk of ADHD. 

These authors point out that iron can help to protect the brain from the negative effects of lead exposure.  They have previously found evidence of iron deficiency (or low iron stores) in ADHD children (Konofal et al 2004). Then in a small study they showed that giving iron supplements to ADHD children who had low iron stores seemed to improve their ADHD symptoms (Konofal et al 2007).

Here, they are suggesting that the poisonous effects of lead exposure might be reduced if children had adequate iron stores to protect them. If so, then testing ADHD children for iron deficiency - and correcting this - could reduce the burden of ADHD caused by environmental exposure to lead.

Given that lead exposure before birth increases the risk of ADHD, better testing of pregnant women for iron deficiency would also seem sensible, as iron deficiency is not uncommon in this group.