women 4 hope

Dedicated to addressing women’s issues.

Study Shows Iron Deficiency Can Cause Memory And Learning Problems.

Posted by Catherine Morgan on April 3, 2007

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Iron deficiency, even to a moderate degree, can hinder women’s memory and learning — but iron supplements can turn those problems around, a study has found.

Iron is essential for delivering oxygen to cells throughout the body, and iron deficiency is known to impair brain development and learning in babies and children. But women of childbearing age are also at elevated risk of low iron stores, and less is known about the possible cognitive effects in them.

In the new study, researchers at Penn State University found that women with even moderate iron deficiency — not severe enough to diagnose full-blown anemia — scored more poorly on tests of memory, attention and learning than women with sufficient iron levels. Those with anemia had the worst scores.

After 4 months on iron supplements, however, women who’d been deficient in the mineral showed an improvement in their mental acuity. Those who had a significant rise in an iron-storing protein called ferritin also improved their test performance by 5 to 7 times. — READ FULL ARTICLE



Iron is essential to all body cells. Iron functions primarily as a carrier of oxygen in the body, both as a part of hemoglobin in the blood and of myoglobin in the muscles. Iron deficiency anemia occurs when there is not enough iron in the red blood cells. This is a common problem often caused by pregnancy, blood loss, a diet low in iron or poor absorption of iron by the body. There are a variety of possible symptoms of iron deficiency including:

  • lack of energy or tiredness
  • extreme fatigue and feeling of weakness
  • pale skin
  • light headedness
  • headache
  • pale skin on the lining of the eyes, the inner mouth and the nails
  • rapid and forceful heartbeat
  • low blood pressure with position change from sitting to standing up
  • finger nails that become thin, brittle and white – they may grow abnormally and get a spoon-shaped appearance
  • tongue may become sore, smooth and reddened
  • decrease in appetite
  • shortness of breath during exercise
  • brittle hair
  • reduction in immunity and increased vulnerability to infection
  • a strong desire to eat nonfoods such as ice, paint or dirt (a condition called Pica)
  • disturbed sleep
  • abdominal pain


Iron Deficiency Anemia — Mayo Clinic — More information on Iron Deficiency.


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5 Responses to “Study Shows Iron Deficiency Can Cause Memory And Learning Problems.”

  1. this is a very interesting post. does it only hinder women’s memory and learning? men too, right?

  2. This particular study was done on women, since an iron deficiency would generally be more common in women, but I would imagine that a low level of iron in a man could have similar symptoms. However, symptoms such as with an iron deficiency could be many other things as well, anyone (man or woman), should see their doctor for a complete diagnosis.

    Thank you for your comment.

  3. I was just diadnosed with an iron dificiency 5 months post pardum. I started having memory loss when i became pregnant – after seeing this i might go back to my doctor and check my levels of iron while pg cause this could be the cause of my memory issues as its still going on. Thanks

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