New study shows teen nutrition critical to long-term brain health

New study shows teen nutrition critical to long-term brain health

A new study conducted by UCLA researchers and published online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has shed more light on the role and importance of iron on long-term brain function. 

In the Science Daily article covering the study, lead researcher and UCLA neurology professor Paul Thompson commented, "We found that healthy brain wiring in adults depended on having good iron levels in your teenage years. This connection was a lot stronger than we expected, especially as we were looking at people who were young and healthy—none of them would be considered iron-deficient." Thompson went on to say, "We also found a connection with a gene that explains why this is so. The gene itself seems to affect brain wiring, which was a big surprise," he said.

On its face this research seems to raise more questions than it answers—at least as far as the consumer is concerned. Iron deficiency is associated with cognitive impairment, but too much iron has been associated with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.

So how do we walk this seemingly fine line? NIH recommends 8 mg/day for kids 9 to 13. For the rest of the teen years (14 to 18), it gets bumped up to 11 mg/day for boys and 15 mg/day for girls. NIH also reports that "Iron intake is negatively influenced by low nutrient density foods, which are high in calories but low in vitamins and minerals. Sugar sweetened sodas and most desserts are examples of low nutrient density foods, as are snack foods such as potato chips. Among almost 5,000 children and adolescents between the ages of 8 and 18 who were surveyed, low nutrient density foods contributed almost 30 percent of daily caloric intake, with sweeteners and desserts jointly accounting for almost 25 percent of caloric intake." 

No wonder so many people have diabetes. And if these dietary patterns keep up, it's looking like we'll all be losing our minds along with our sensitivity to insulin. 

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