Just the right amount of iron is needed for proper cell functioning but an excess could trigger brain diseases like Alzheimer`s and Parkinson`s, new research says.
Men have more iron in their system than women, which may explain why they develop these age-related degenerative diseases at a younger age.
Women lose iron through blood loss during menstruation, so a lesser number of them have these diseases, according to a University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) study, the journal Neurobiology of Aging reports.
George Bartzokis, professor of psychiatry at the UCLA and colleagues compared iron levels in women who had their uterus removed (hysterectomy) before menopause and thus did not menstruate and lose iron, with levels in postmenopausal women who had not gone through the procedure.
They found the women who had undergone hysterectomy had higher levels of iron in their brains than the women who hadn`t, compared to that of the men, according to a UCLA statement.
“But there are things postmenopausal women and especially men can do to reduce their iron levels through relatively simple actions,” Bartzokis said.
“These include not overloading themselves with over-the-counter supplements that contain iron, unless recommended by their doctor; eating less red meat, which contains high levels of iron; donating blood; (taking) curcumin or green tea, that may have positive health consequences,” Bartzokis said.
Researchers used an MRI technique that can measure the amount of ferritin iron in the brain (ferritin is a protein that stores iron).
They examined 39 postmenopausal women, 15 of whom had undergone a hysterectomy. They looked at three white-matter and and five gray-matter regions of the brain. Fifty-four male subjects were also imaged for comparison.
The researchers found that 15 of the women who had hysterectomy had concentrations of iron in the brain`s white-matter regions that did not differ from the men`s levels.
Further, both the women who had a hysterectomy and the men, had significantly higher amounts of iron than the women who had not undergone a hysterectomy.