The Link Between Iron Deficiency and Alzheimer’s Disease.


For years, physicians have known that a deficiency in iron (hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen to cells) causes anemia, which is characterized by a lack of energy. But now, new research indicates that an iron deficiency may be a contributing factor in brain cell decay.(1) The lead researcher of the study, Dr. Ames, stated that, “Although it’s too soon to say that getting enough iron and other vitamins can prevent Alzheimer’s disease, there’s no excuse for anyone not to get a sufficient daily supply of these nutrients.”

Dr. Ames described what happens to cells when there is an insufficient supply of iron. Mitochondria (the power plants of cells) within the cells become damaged, which leads to an impairment of one’s metabolism. Mitochondrial damage can lead to the accumulation of free radicals, which are believed to be that contribute to the aging process and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Experiments have shown that when the production of heme was interfered with, cells degenerated and ultimately died. This degeneration is typical of what happens to brain cells in Alzheimer’s patients. In addition, the interference caused cells to make abnormal versions of proteins called APP, which accumulate to form plaque in brain cells, a key cause of Alzheimer’s.

Considering the fact there are numerous causes of Azheimer’s, and that insufficient amounts of iron may or may not be one of them; the link does, however, provide "a plausible mechanism" in the genesis of Alzheimer’s. In the meanwhile, Dr. Ames feels that a good multivitamin with iron and vitamin B6 (they both make heme) is an “insurance pill” just in case research confirms the link between iron deficiency and Alzheimer’s. The study also underscores the importance of sticking to a healthy antioxidant-rich diet.


1. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Nov 12, 2002; 91(23),14807-14812

2. Blood Press Suppl. 1996;3:53-5