Body iron is associated with cognitive executive planning function in college women

Cynthia A. Blanton*, Michael W. Green, Mary J. Kretsch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Evidence of the relationship between altered cognitive function and depleted Fe status is accumulating in women of reproductive age but the degree of Fe deficiency associated with negative neuropsychological outcomes needs to be delineated. Data are limited regarding this relationship in university women in whom optimal cognitive function is critical to academic success. The aim of the present study was to examine the relationship between body Fe, in the absence of Fe-deficiency anaemia, and neuropsychological function in young college women. Healthy, non-Anaemic undergraduate women (n 42) provided a blood sample and completed a standardised cognitive test battery consisting of one manual (Tower of London (TOL), a measure of central executive function) and five computerised (Bakan vigilance task, mental rotation, simple reaction time, immediate word recall and two-finger tapping) tasks. Women's body Fe ranged from - 4·2 to 8·1 mg/kg. General linear model ANOVA revealed a significant effect of body Fe on TOL planning time (P= 0.002). Spearman's correlation coefficients showed a significant inverse relationship between body Fe and TOL planning time for move categories 4 (r - 0.39, P= 0.01) and 5 (r - 0.47, P= 0.002). Performance on the computerised cognitive tasks was not affected by body Fe level. These findings suggest that Fe status in the absence of anaemia is positively associated with central executive function in otherwise healthy college women.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)906-913
Number of pages8
JournalBritish Journal of Nutrition
Issue number5
Early online date7 Jun 2012
Publication statusPublished - 14 Mar 2013


  • Cognition
  • College women
  • Iron


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