Food and Behaviour Research

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Effects of diet on brain iron levels among healthy individuals: an MRI pilot study

Hagemeier J, Tong O, Dwyer MG, Schweser F, Ramanthan M, Zivadinov R (2015) Neurobiology of Aging  DOI: 

Web URL: Read more on the Neurobiology of Aging website here


 Increased brain iron levels may be a risk factor for age-related neurological disorders. Little is known about factors other than age and sex potentially affecting brain iron concentration. We investigated dietary habits (iron and calcium supplements, dairy products, vegetables and red meat) as a potential modifiable predictor of brain iron levels using 3T susceptibility weighted MR imaging.

190 volunteers were scanned and mean phase and mean phase of low phase voxels (MP-LPV) were determined for deep gray matter (DGM) structures, including the caudate, putamen, thalamus, pulvinar, hippocampus, amygdala, red nucleus and substantia nigra.

There was a trend for lower mean phase (suggestive of high iron levels) in individuals taking iron supplements (p=.075). Among men, both increased dairy and vegetable intake was significantly associated with lower DGM mean phase (p<.05) and MP-LPV (p<.05) in the thalamus, pulvinar and red nucleus.

In contrast, among women, iron levels were not associated with dairy consumption (p>.05) in the DGM, but were inversely associated with vegetable intake in the thalamus (p=.006). Brain iron levels appear to be modulated by diet, with effects being highly dependent on gender.