Iron deficiency anemia, not iron deficiency, is associated with reduced attention in healthy young women

Rebecca L. Cook, Nicholas J. O’Dwyer, Helen M. Parker, Cheyne E. Donges, Hoi Lun Cheng, Katharine S. Steinbeck, Eka P. Cox, Janet L. Franklin, Manohar L. Garg, Kieron B. Rooney, Helen T. O’Connor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
20 Downloads (Pure)


Women of reproductive age are at increased risk for iron deficiency (ID) and iron deficiency anemia (IDA), with both implicated in decreased cognitive function (CF). Obesity may complicate this association via inflammatory-mediated ferritin elevation. This cross-sectional study examined the association between hematological iron status (iron replete (IR), ID or IDA) and CF in healthy, young (18–35 years) women of normal-weight (NW: BMI 18.5–24.9 kg/m2) or obese-weight (OB: BMI >30 kg/m2). Participants completed a validated, computer-based cognition assessment evaluating impulsivity, attention, information processing, memory and executive function; CF reported as z-scores (mean ± SD). Iron status and CF were compared between groups via ANOVA, with adjustment for potential confounders (BMI, physical activity, C-reactive protein) via ANCOVA. A total of 157 NW and 142 OB women (25.8 ± 5.1 years) participated. Prevalence of ID and IDA were 14% and 6% respectively, with no significant difference between NW and OB groups. Women with IDA scored significantly lower on attention (although within normal range; ±1 z-score), compared to ID (IDA: −0.75 ± 1.89; ID: 0.53 ± 1.37; p = 0.004) but not IR (0.03 ± 1.33, p = 0.21) groups; there were no significant differences between ID and IR groups (p = 0.34). Adjustment for confounders did not significantly alter these results. In conclusion, women with IDA showed significantly reduced attention compared to women with ID.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1216
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017


Dive into the research topics of 'Iron deficiency anemia, not iron deficiency, is associated with reduced attention in healthy young women'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this