Iron may improve women's memory

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Young women may be able to achieve significant improvements in memory and concentration by taking iron supplements, scientists have found.

Young women may be able to achieve significant improvements in memory and concentration by taking iron supplements, scientists have found.

Women between 18 and 35 who took iron supplements for 16 weeks did better at tests of mental performance compared to women of the same age who did not take extra iron.

The scientists, led by John Beard of Penn State University, said that even women with mild iron deficiency who were not diagnosed with clinical anaemia could benefit from taking extra iron with their food.

The results of the study, released by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, suggest that many women of childbearing age are unwittingly suffering from moderate iron deficiency due to a monthly loss of blood.

Iron is essential for oxygen transport by the red blood cells and its loss by bleeding can only be restored by taking it in food.

The study investigated 149 women who were classed as iron sufficient, iron deficient but not anaemic, or anaemic. Each took tests of mental performance before and after the four-month study and each was given either 60 milligrams of an iron supplement or a placebo treatment every day.

Women who were iron deficient but not anaemic completed the tasks in the same amount of time as iron sufficient women of the same age, but they performed significantly worse, the scientists found. Women who were anaemic also performed significantly worse but they also took longer to finish the test, said Dr Beard.

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