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April 2012


It is estimated that 25% of the world’s population, and approximately 50% of pre-school children worldwide have anaemia.  50% of anaemia cases are due to iron deficiency.  Studies have shown that iron deficiency in infancy is related to poorer cognition in childhood.

Iron is an essential mineral that plays key function in oxygen transport and storage.  Iron deficiency is associated with fatigue, lethargy, impaired cognitive and motor function.  The risk factors of developing iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) include low iron intake, poor absorption of iron, and high iron demand particularly during infancy, growth spurts, adolescence, and pregnancy.  In observational studies anaemia and iron deficiency are associated with cognitive deficits, suggesting that iron supplementation may improve cognitive function.

A recent meta-analysis assessed whether iron supplementation improved cognitive functions including concentration, intelligence, memory, psychomotor skills and scholastic achievement.  Fourteen RCTs on iron supplementation in males and females aged 6 years and older were included in this analysis.

This analysis found that iron supplementation improved attention and concentration irrespective of baseline iron status.  In anaemic women and children, supplementation improved intelligence quotient (IQ) by 2.5 points, but had no effect on non-anaemic participants, or on memory, psychomotor skills or scholastic achievement.

Findings from this analysis provided evidence on the benefits of iron supplementation on cognitive function, however, further studies of at least one year’s duration with varying levels of baseline iron status and using well validated tests of cognition are needed to confirm and extend these results.

Falkingham et al. Nutrition Journal 2010, 9:4

April 2012


Korean Ginseng (Panax Ginseng) is an adaptogenic herb that has been used as potent energy tonic for thousands of years in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Modern clinical study has provided scientific evidence on its benefit in enhancing cognitive performance.

Although we do not yet fully understand the mechanism for many of Ginseng’s medicinal benefits, modern science using controlled clinical trials began to unravel scientific evidence on the health benefits of Ginseng supplementation.  Single doses of the traditional herbal treatment Panax ginseng have recently been shown to lower blood glucose levels and elicit cognitive improvements in healthy, overnight-fasted volunteers.

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, 27 healthy young adults completed a 10 minute “cognitive demand” test battery at baseline.  The 10 minute “cognitive demand” battery comprised a Serial Threes subtraction task (2 min); a Serial Sevens subtraction task (2 min); a Rapid Visual Information Processing task (5 min); and a “mental fatigue” visual analogue scale.

These young adults then consumed capsules containing either a Panax ginseng extract or a placebo, and 30 minutes later a drink containing glucose or placebo. A further 30 minutes later (i.e. 60 minutes post-baseline/capsules) they completed the “cognitive demand” battery six times in immediate succession.  The participants were divided into four groups: Placebo (0mg Ginseng/0 mg glucose); Ginseng (200mg Ginseng/0 mg glucose); Glucose (0 mg Ginseng/25 g glucose); or Ginseng/Glucose (200 mg Ginseng/25 g glucose).  Blood glucose levels were measured prior to the day’s treatment, and before and after the post-dose completions of the battery.

The results showed that both Panax ginseng and glucose enhanced performance of a mental arithmetic task, and ameliorated the increase in subjective feelings of mental fatigue experienced by participants during the later stages of the sustained, cognitively demanding task performance.  Accuracy of performing the Rapid Visual Information Processing task (RVIP) was also improved following the glucose load.  Panax ginseng caused a reduction in blood glucose levels 1 hour following consumption when ingested without glucose.

These results confirm that Panax ginseng may possess glucoregulatory properties and can enhance cognitive performance.

Reay JL etal; Journal of Psychopharmacology 2006; 20(6):771-81

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