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Iron deficiency can cause cognitive impairment in geriatric patients



Deficiency of iron, which plays an important role in oxygen transport and storage, may lead to cerebral hypoxia and cognitive decline. This relationship which was studied in children and adults was not evaluated in the elderly. The objective of this study is to examine the effect of iron deficiency on cognitive function in the elderly.

Design, Setting, Participants

This is a cross-sectional study conducted in a geriatric medicine outpatient clinic of a university hospital. Consecutive 2009 patients admitted to Geriatric Medicine outpatient clinic were examined and 622 patients who fulfilled the inclusion criteria were enrolled in the study.


Comprehensive geriatric assessment, cognitive assessment and laboratory analysis including blood count, iron, total iron binding capacity, ferritin, and transferrin saturation were performed.


Mean age of the study group was 72.5±6.5 and 439 (70.6%) were women. MMSE scores were moderately and significantly correlated with iron levels (r=0.33, p<0.001) and transferrin saturation (r=0.32, p<0.001). Transferrin saturation was significantly lower in the patients with dementia (p=0.040). It was found that patients with iron deficiency had lower MMSE scores (p<0.001) and this relationship was also present in patients without anemia (p=0.004).


The results of this study revealed a negative influence of iron deficiency on cognitive function and this influence was independent from the presence of anemia. As iron deficiency can be easily diagnosed and treated, detecting its effect on cognitive function is of importance. Screening for iron deficiency and initiating appropriate treatment should be a routine part of comprehensive geriatric assessment.

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Correspondence to Burcu Balam Yavuz.

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Yavuz, B.B., Cankurtaran, M., Haznedaroglu, I.C. et al. Iron deficiency can cause cognitive impairment in geriatric patients. J Nutr Health Aging 16, 220–224 (2012).

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Key words

  • Iron deficiency
  • cognitive function
  • dementia
  • anemia
  • elderly