Published August 23, 2013
Red meat consumption, which can lead to a buildup of iron in the body, may be linked to Alzheimer’s disease, Counsel and Heal reported.
In a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine the brains of 31 patients with Alzheimer's and the brains of 68 healthy people.
Overall, people with Alzheimer’s disease were found to have significantly higher levels of iron in their brains compared to healthy people. Researchers discovered that iron was particularly associated with tissue damage in the hippocampus – an area of the brain damaged early on in the disease. However, there was not as much iron-related damage in the thalamus, which is usually affected in the later stages of Alzheimer’s.
Researchers believe that iron may trigger some of the tissue breakdown associated with the disease, according to Counsel and Heal. However, the study’s authors also point out that both dietary and medical interventions can help people control this risk factor.
"The accumulation of iron in the brain may be influenced by modifying environmental factors, such as how much red meat and iron dietary supplements we consume and, in women, having hysterectomies before menopause," said study author Dr. George Bartzokis, a professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA.