Objectives: Iron deficiency (ID)–the highly prevalent nutritional deficiency–has been shown to have deleterious effects on measures of cognitive performance and brain activity. Many of these results are suggestive of the impact of ID on neurotransmitter regulation and myelination. A third critical potential effect of ID on brain function is at the level of brain energy expenditure; however, to date there has not been any method for indirectly estimating the impact of ID on energy expenditure in humans in the context of cognitive work. Methods: We report here a study comparing ID and iron sufficient (IS) college students in which simultaneous behavioral, encephelographic (EEG), and metabolic data were collected in a task designed as a cognitive analog to standard physical exertion tasks. Results: We show that increases in cognitive demands produced decrements in behavioral measures of performance, and increases in EEG and metabolic measures of work. Critically, we found that the magnitudes of those changes were directly related to iron levels. Discussion: We find support for the idea that brain activity mediates the relationship between cognitive demands and energy expenditure, with ferritin and hemoglobin moderating those relationships in distinct ways. Finally, we show that levels of energy expenditure can be indirectly estimated by measures of EEG spectral power.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Medicine (miscellaneous)
- Nutrition and Dietetics