February 25, 2024

Boosting Brain Health: The Role of Iron and Manganese in Combating Cognitive Decline

A recent study published in the Nutrients journal examined the relationship between dietary mineral consumption and the risk of cognitive impairment in elderly individuals in Spain. The study utilized the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) test, a sensitive and specific method for assessing cognitive function. Among the 201 participants, 54.2% were found to have cognitive impairment. Interestingly, the study concluded that increased intake of iron and manganese in women reduced the risk of cognitive impairment, while no such association was found in men.

With the extension of human life expectancy comes an increase in age-related chronic conditions, including neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia. Dementia is a group of neurological disorders characterized by memory loss and other cognitive impairments and affects approximately 50 million people worldwide, with an additional 10 million new cases each year.

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) often precedes dementia and is identified by objective and subjective assessments of cognitive decline. While certain lifestyle changes and interventions can delay MCI, no pharmacological cures currently exist for the condition. Individuals over the age of 65 with MCI face a fivefold greater risk of developing dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s disease (AD), compared to those without MCI.

Lifestyle interventions, including physical activity, cessation of smoking and alcohol consumption, and dietary changes, offer a glimmer of hope for delaying or even reversing MCI before the onset of AD. Certain dietary patterns, such as the Mediterranean diet and the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH), have been associated with neurological benefits. However, there is limited evidence regarding the impact of individual dietary components, such as minerals, on cognitive functioning.

Minerals such as iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, manganese, and selenium have been suggested to play a role in cognitive function due to their involvement in DNA repair and antioxidative properties. However, these associations have not been extensively studied within a scientific framework.

The study in question recruited participants from the COGDEM cohort and examined the associations between dietary mineral intake and cognitive impairment. Data collection included health and sociodemographic information, dietary records, physical activity measurements, genotyping, and neuropsychological evaluations.

Of the 201 participants included in the study, 63.2% were female, with an average age of 59.8 years. The MoCA test identified 54.3% of participants as having MCI. Education level was found to be the only non-dietary variable associated with cognitive impairment, with higher education levels correlating with a lower risk of MCI.

Notably, the study found that higher iron and manganese intake in women was associated with a reduced risk of cognitive impairment. Copper intake in women also showed a positive correlation with improved cognitive outcomes, although to a lesser extent.

Surprisingly, no significant associations were found between dietary mineral intake and cognitive outcomes in men.

In conclusion, the study highlights the potential benefits of increased iron and manganese consumption, particularly among women, in preventing cognitive decline. These minerals, along with copper to a lesser extent, appear to have a protective effect against MCI progression and the onset of AD. Further research is needed to better understand the gender-specific differences and to explore the mechanisms through which these minerals impact cognitive function.


1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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