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Ritalin improves symptoms of iron deficiency

Category: General Health

For individuals who had low iron blood levels during infancy, a simple drug that is commonly used to treat conditions like attention deficit disorder may reduce some of the neurological damage caused by the deficiency.

Children who had low blood iron levels while they were still in their mother's womb or within the first six months of their life are likely to experience impaired motor function, attachment issues and attention deficits. During this period of development, the brain undergoes tremendous growth, and iron plays an important role. For those who are deprived of iron during this period, the symptoms can persist into adulthood.

However, in testing on lab mice, researchers from Penn State University showed that low doses of Ritalin can improve attention span and concentration among those who were iron deficient during this period.

Byron Jones, who led the study, said that iron-deficient children often have underdeveloped dopamine receptors. These receptors are the target of drugs like Ritalin. Despite this fact, few doctors have tried using it to treat the symptoms of iron deficiency.

"Most of the research community knows that iron deficiency has a major hit on dopamine systems," said Jones. "Why hasn't anybody tried a dopamine drug to repair or at least rescue some of what's lost?"

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