A new Australian study has found that high brain iron and amyloid beta levels are associated with a ‘quicker’ cognitive decline.
To get to this result, Melbourne-based researchers, Dr Scott Ayton and Professor Ashley Bush, analysed the brain scans and cognitive tests of 117 participants who were taking part in the Australian Imaging and Biomarker Lifestyle (AIBL) study. The findings were published in the Journal Brain.
Participants who had both high iron and high amyloid beta levels in the brain (a hallmark sign of Alzheimer’s disease), were found to have a ‘quicker’ cognitive decline. In comparison, participants who had low brain iron and high amyloid beta levels in brain, did not have this same finding.
This has led the researchers to believe that ‘high’ brain iron levels, might be a potential tell-tale sign of Alzheimer’s disease progression.
Does this mean we should reduce the level of iron in our diet? Dementia Daily asked Dr Ayton whether we should be alarmed at this new finding.
“We don’t have any evidence that the amount of iron that we eat has any bearing on the amount of iron in our brain,” Dr Ayton said.
“We are not suggesting that people alter their diets based on the results of our study. The brain is separated from the rest of your body via something called the blood-brain-barrier. This is a good thing, because we wouldn’t want our brain to be spiked with iron every time we eat a steak!” Dr Ayton said.
So, no, these current results do not mean that the amount of ‘iron intake’ in our diet is in any way associated with Alzheimer’s disease onset.
More simply, the research has found that iron is another marker, along with amyloid beta and Tau, which could identify disease progression.
Where to next?
This study is a positive step in further understanding what causes Alzheimer’s disease and opens a potential new avenue for treatment identification.
According to Dr Ayton, the only way we know how to lower the amount of iron in the brain is by using an iron-binding drug that can enter the brain.
“We will be testing whether this has a benefit for people living with Alzheimer’s disease in an upcoming clinical trial,” he said.
Interested in being involved in the study? People who have been recently diagnosed with dementia or those aged 65 or over who have noticed their memory declining can register to be involved by emailing 3D@florey.edu.au. Eligible participants will be contacted when the study opens for enrolment later this year.
View the original study here.
Want to learn more about the latest research looking at the role of iron in Alzheimer’s disease? Watch this short seminar presented by Professor Ashely Bush and Dr Scott Ayton.
Can excess iron in the brain result from ocean fertilization project where tonnes of iron sulphate are tipped into the ocean . The phytoplankton are eaten by small fish and eventually us.
Hi Evelaine If you're interested in being involved in the study, email 3D@florey.edu.au. Best wishes Leanne - The Dementia Daily Team
This is exciting to read about. I may be too old to participate, but would like to know if chance is high and also if my husband has Alzheimer's or dementia. It would be amazing if an iron binding drug could improve his quality of life.
Hi Kathryn If there are any cognitive impacts that you have noticed you could also consider asking for a referral to a cognitive disorders clinic. For more information on these clinics or advice on dementia, contact our free National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500 which operates 9am-5pm Monday to Friday. All the best Leanne - The Dementia Daily team
Hi Susan Do you know about our free National Dementia Helpline? Our dementia advisors are there to support you and advise you on services in your area. The Helpline operates from 9.00am to 5.00pm, Monday to Friday and can be contacted on 1800 100 500. Leanne - The Dementia Daily team
My husband has FTD Dementia. He is 45
Good morning, I am 62 and have been told by my neurologist that my recent MRI brain shows ischaemic changes and disease associated with chronic diabetes or chronic hypertension. I have neither. In the past I have had differing results in Iron levels, discrepancies in ferritin and always high HB. Despite multiple referrals to all disciplines of medicine and testing over last 5 years I am yet to establish the reason for my symptoms which are now confirmed by alterations in my brain. My concern is the risk of increasing deterioration if reason not found.
Hi Diane People who have been recently diagnosed with dementia or those aged 65 or over who have noticed their memory declining can register to be involved by emailing 3D@florey.edu.au. Eligible participants will be contacted when the study opens for enrolment later this year. Best wishes Leanne - The Dementia Daily team
My mother, Evelyn is 85 years old and diagnosed with Alzheimer's in February 2017. We are interested in the iron binding drug test