Do Iron and Fitness Levels Affect Cognitive Ability and Grades?

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iron levels and cognition

Do fitness and iron levels affect grades?

  • A recent study suggests that fitness level and iron level do affect grade point average.
  • “Koehler and his colleagues wanted to explore the lesser known combined effects of fitness and iron deficiency on grade point average”.
  • Researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Pennsylvania State University have found that a student’s fitness level and iron status could be the difference between making an A or a B.
  • Results showed that female college students who were fit and had normal iron levels achieved higher grade point averages than unfit women who were iron deficient.
  • According to the study, the difference in grade point average was as much as 0.34.
  • This difference between the 2 groups is enough to drop or increase a letter grade.
  • The impact of fitness was greater overall than the impact of iron status but taken together, the impact was even greater.

    In summary

    “Improving fitness or maintaining a high level of fitness can be important for collegiate success,” said Koehler. “Ideally, we should also make sure the diet is appropriate to prevent nutrient deficiencies.”

    Reference Journal of Nutrition  http://news.unl.edu/newsrooms/today/article/study-suggests-fitness-and-iron-deficiency-linked-to-gpa

Iron deficiency Information

  • Iron helps with the bodies essential functions such as transporting oxygen in the blood.
  • Iron also helps with brain energy metabolism.
  • Iron deficiency is one of the most common deficiencies in the world.
  • Iron deficiency is associated with fatigue, lower work capacity, and poor academic performance.
  • Persistent iron deficiency can lead to anemia.

About 70 percent of your body’s iron is found in the red blood cells of your blood called hemoglobin.

  • Hemoglobin is essential for transferring oxygen in your blood from the lungs to the tissues.

About 6 percent of body iron is a component of certain proteins essential for,

  • respiration and energy metabolism
  • synthesis of collagen and some neurotransmitters.

About 25 percent of the iron in the body is stored as ferritin,

  • Ferritin usually stays in your body’s liver cells which are known as hepatocytes.
  • Iron also is needed for proper immune function (ferritin is found in the reticuloendothelial cells).

When iron intake is chronically low, iron stores can become depleted. This can lead to decreased hemoglobin levels and anemia.

Foods that are high in iron

Heme sources

  • Iron is found in animal foods that originally contained hemoglobin, such as red meats, fish, and poultry.
  • Your body absorbs the most iron from heme sources.

Non-heme sources

  • Foods are that enriched with iron
  • Lentils, beans
  • Green leafy vegetables such as spinach

Iron deficiency and cognitive impairments

  • “Micronutrient deficiencies, especially those related to iodine and iron, are linked to different cognitive impairments, as well as to potential long-term behavioral changes.”
  • Iron deficiency has been associated with attention span, intelligence, and sensory perception functions.
  • Iron deficiency anemia has been associated with changes in emotion and behavior.Iron deficiency without anemia may cause cognitive disturbances.
  • In humans, there is compelling evidence that 6- to 24-month-old infants with iron deficiency are at risk for poorer cognitive, motor, socioemotional, and neurophysiologic development in short- and long-term outcomes.
  • Some studies but not all have shown an improvement in cognitive ability with iron supplementation

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4235202/

cognitive abilitiesCan iron supplementation increase cognitive ability?

  • Studies are equivocal.
  • “The success of the supplementation might be based on an early prescription after having diagnosed an iron deficiency.”
  • “It remains controversial whether that supplementation is successful or not, depending on the timing of the therapy (eg, critical periods).”
  • “More studies of an appropriate duration in different age groups (children, adolescents, adults, and older people) and across all levels of baseline iron status are required.”
Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2014; 10: 2087–2095.
Published online 2014 Nov 10. doi:  10.2147/NDT.S72491
PMCID: PMC4235202 Iron deficiency and cognitive functions Ignacio Jáuregui-Lobera

Physical fitness and cognitive abilities

  • Physical fitness is also known to influence overall health, cognition, and learning.
  • Physical fitness and particularly aerobic fitness has also been associated with brain structure and function, cognition, and school performance in children
  • Prior studies have demonstrated the efficacy of physical activity.
  • Physical activity can help improve cognitive health across the human lifespan.
  • Aerobic fitness helps spare age-related brain tissue loss during aging.

Exercise and Neurological Diseases

  • “Abundant evidence supports the role of exercise enhancing cognitive function in young subjects and reducing cognitive decay in aging.”
  • “Studies performed in humans indicate that exercise has the potential to reduce the risk for various neurological diseases including Alzheimer, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s, up to the point to attenuate functional decline after the onset of neurodegeneration.”
  • Exercise is therapeutic and protective in depression, and its effects are proportional to the amount of exercise.
  • Reference https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/eutils/elink.fcgi?dbfrom=pubmed&retmode=ref&cmd=prlinks&id=23720292 The Influence of Exercise on Cognitive Abilities Fernando Gomez-Pinilla1,* and Charles Hillman2

What do you think about the study?

 

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About Sharon T McLaughlin MD FACS 217 Articles
I am a physician who is interested in providing health information and health tips so that we may live healthy lives.

4 Comments

  1. Interesting read. I don’t eat a lot of red meat but I try to supplement with beans and lentils. Good to know they also provide some iron. Thanks for the information.

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