Iron and Zinc levels associated with memory

In a recently published study, iron and zinc levels were correlated with short-term memory in children. Children are at increased risk of both iron and zinc deficiency.

This new study evaluated serum iron and zinc levels in 100 children between 6-11 years of age. The children were also assessed for hemoglobin levels; hemoglobin is an iron-containing protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen. In addition, the children were evaluated for verbal and non-verbal memory, including IQ. The children with iron and zinc deficiency on the initial assessment were supplemented with iron at a dose of 2 mg per kg of body weight per day and 5 mg per day of zinc for 3 months.

The results of the study showed that all of the children with low levels of serum iron and zinc had memory deficits. In the children aged 9-11, combined iron and zinc deficiency resulted in a significant degree of both verbal and non-verbal memory deficits. In the group of children between 6 and 8 years of age, only non-verbal memory was decreased. Both age groups showed improvement in memory after supplementation of iron and zinc.

The researchers stated, “Iron and zinc deficiency is associated with memory deficits in children. There is a marked improvement in memory after supplementation. Post supplementation IQ scores do not show significant improvement in deficient groups in 6-8 year olds.”


Bhaskaran M, Umamaheswari K, Krishnamurthy G, Malini H, Vasudevan K. Effect of Iron and Zinc Deficiency on Short Term Memory in Children. Indian Pediatr. 2010 Aug 1. Published Online Ahead of Print.

Note: Accidental overdose of iron-containing products is a leading cause of fatal poisoning in children under six. Iron levels should be tested in children prior to supplementation and children who are found to be deficient in iron should have their dosages and serum levels of iron monitored.

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