Healthy dietary intake moderates the effects of age on brain iron concentration and working memory performance

Valentinos Zachariou, Christopher E. Bauer, Elayna R. Seago, Georgia Panayiotou, Edward D. Hall, D. Allan Butterfield, Brian T. Gold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Age-related brain iron accumulation is linked with oxidative stress, neurodegeneration and cognitive decline. Certain nutrients can reduce brain iron concentration in animal models, however, this association is not well established in humans. Moreover, it remains unknown if nutrition can moderate the effects of age on brain iron concentration and/or cognition. Here, we explored these issues in a sample of 73 healthy older adults (61-86 years old), while controlling for several factors such as age, gender, years of education, physical fitness and alcohol-intake. Quantitative susceptibility mapping was used for assessment of brain iron concentration and participants performed an N-Back paradigm to evaluate working memory performance. Nutritional-intake was assessed via a validated questionnaire. Nutrients were grouped into nutrition factors based on previous literature and factor analysis. One factor, comprised of vitamin E, lysine, DHA omega-3 and LA omega-6 PUFA, representing food groups such as nuts, healthy oils and fish, moderated the effects of age on both brain iron concentration and working memory performance, suggesting that these nutrients may slow the rate of brain iron accumulation and working memory declines in aging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-196
Number of pages14
JournalNeurobiology of Aging
StatePublished - Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (grant numbers NIA R01 AG055449, NIA R01 AG068055, NIA P30 AG028383 and NIGMS S10 OD023573 ). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of these granting agencies. The authors thank Dr. Flavius Raslau for evaluating T1W and FLAIR images for evidence of stroke and other abnormalities. We also thank Dr. Shoshana Bardach for help with participant recruitment, Beverly Meacham and Eric Foreman for assisting/conducting the MRI scans and Drs. David Powell, Anders Anderson and Pascal Spincemaille for helpful discussions.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021


  • Brain iron
  • Nutrition, Moderation
  • QSM
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (all)
  • Aging
  • Developmental Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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