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High Levels of Iron Associated With Increased Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease

Many researchers believe that two proteins (tau and beta-amyloid) create plaque buildup and cause the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. However, a recent study suggests that iron buildup in the brain may also play a role.

Participants in the study included 31 individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and 68 healthy controls. The researchers examined two areas of the brain in the Alzheimer’s patients, the hippocampus and the thalamus. The hippocampus is damaged in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, and the thalamus is generally not affected until later stages.

In order to measure iron levels, the researchers utilized MRI brain scans to determine levels of brain iron in ferritin, a protein that stores iron. In the Alzheimer’s disease patients, there was an increase of iron in the hippocampus compared to the control patients. Additionally, the hippocampus of the Alzheimer’s patients showed tissue damage.

Conversely, the thalamus of the Alzheimer’s patients did not show an increase in iron compared to the control patients, but did show tissue damage.

The researchers claim that the tissue damage and increase in iron in the hippocampus are occurring at the same time, demonstrating that increased iron levels may play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. They recommend that further study be completed to confirm this association.

Researchers from UCLA conducted the study. It was published in the January 2013 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

There is no current cure for Alzheimer’s disease but studies have suggested that vitamin B and aloe vera may help reverse some of the damage. Omega-3s and the flavanols found in chocolate may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

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