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Olea South: (07) 3808 8624
Olea North: (07) 3325 5512

Iron Deficiency and Mental Health

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Is Iron deficiency messing with your head? We all know the importance of iron to our health – the best-known example is that red blood cells need Iron to make haemoglobin, and it’s this that transports oxygen in the blood, but did you also know that iron is crucial to our mental health?   Make an Appointment and ask your Naturopath for more details next time you are in.

Iron is involved in the synthesis, metabolism and breakdown of monoamine neurotransmitters including dopamine, noradrenaline, adrenaline and serotonin. Each are synthesised by Iron-dependent enzymes. Iron is also essential for generating ATP by electron transport in brain mitochondria to satisfy its high energy demand. 1

The oligodendrocytes that produce myelin for the formation of the myelin sheath contain the highest Iron concentrations in the brain. Iron is a co-factor for the synthesis of lipid components of myelin, and is further required for oligodendrocyte development. 1

Iron homeostasis is very important in the brain and is altered in most neurogenerative disorders including Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s disease manifests due to death of dopaminergic neurons and Iron dysregulation appears to be detrimental to these dopaminergic neurons. 1

Systemic Iron deficiency including those with a history of anemia, multiple blood donations that have depleted Iron stores or chronically low serum Iron may contribute to the pathogenesis of Parkinson’s disease. 2 Conversely excess Iron levels in the Substantia nigra region of the brain have also been observed in Parkinson’s disease. 1

Loss of transferrin receptor 1 (Tfr-1) which is vital for Iron uptake and homeostasis of dopaminergic neurons causes neurodegeneration and Parkinson’s disease presentation due to neuronal Iron deficiency. In a study, mice lacking Tfr1 failed to thrive after seven weeks, then developed neurodegeneration and died by 12 weeks.2

Cellular Iron deficiency can also lead to impaired oxidative phosphorylation and mitochondrial control, and may contribute to neurodegeneration. 2

Lastly, Iron deficiency can increase brain Manganese levels which can substitute for Iron in some cases, unsettling Iron homeostasis and causing Iron deficiency. Exposure to high levels of Manganese in the brain also causes a Parkinson’s disease like disorder. 2

So, with any patients presenting with nervous system issues, we are well aware of the  valuable role that Iron plays in the brain.


  1. Zucca FA, Segura-Aguilar J, Ferrari E, et al. Interactions of iron, dopamine and neuromelanin pathways in brain aging and Parkinson’s disease. Prog Neurobiol. 2017;155:96-119. doi:10.1016/j.pneurobio.2015.09.012
  2. Matak P, Matak A, Moustafa S, et al. Disrupted iron homeostasis causes dopaminergic neurodegeneration in mice. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 2016;113(13):3428-3435. doi:10.1073/pnas.1519473113

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