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Help needed for study into world's biggest nutritional problem

25 May 2004

Help needed for study into world's biggest nutritional problem

RESEARCHERS at Aston University are currently involved in a groundbreaking new study to investigate the relationship between iron deficiency, brain anatomy and mental performance, but the future of the research looks uncertain due to a lack of iron deficient volunteers.

Iron deficiency anaemia is the most common nutritional disorder in the world, affecting up to 30% of the world's population. In developed countries 14% of menstruating women suffer from the condition. Many people think that the effects of iron deficiency are purely biological but evidence is now showing that it can affect people's brain activity and mental performance as well.

As reported by the BBC recently, a lack of iron can affect a child's development, and causes them to fall behind in school due to decreased cognitive function (perception, learning and understanding). Dr Mike Green, Psychology researcher at Aston University and expert in cognition, emotion and diet, hopes to identify the cognitive areas of the brain that are affected by iron deficiency and use this information to see whether iron supplements could help to combat this worrying discovery.

The study involves finding iron deficient subjects, identified by taking a small blood sample, and asking them to perform a simple computer task that stimulates the cognitive areas of the brain. The strength of brain activity while undertaking the task is measured by a magnetoencephalography (MEG) scanner. Then the areas which are being used are identified by an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scanner. Both processes are completely painless and non-invasive.

If you're a woman aged between 20 and 45 and are or think that you may be anaemic please contact Nicola Elliman on 0121 204 3000. Symptoms of anaemia include feeling weak and tired and looking pale. Subjects will take part in between one and three sessions at Aston University, each lasting 40 minutes and will be paid up to �60 for their time. They will also be given information on their blood nutrient levels and get an inside view of how human nutrition research is conducted. Vegetarians and people who do not eat red meat are particularly welcome, but this isn't essential.

Written by Babs Coombes. For more information please contact me on 0121 204 4549 or email: b.a.l.coombes@aston.ac.uk

Notes to editors:

The study is being performed in conjunction with the Western Human Nutrition Center, Davis, California.

The study is being funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The BBC article entitled 'Lack of iron has lasting effects' can be found on BBCi.

Dr Mike Green is available for interview.

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