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Cell Mol Life Sci. 2013 Dec;70(23):4449-61. doi: 10.1007/s00018-013-1369-2. Epub 2013 Jul 2.

Neuroimaging, nutrition, and iron-related genes.

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  • 1Imaging Genetics Center, Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, Department of Neurology, UCLA School of Medicine, Neuroscience Research Building 225E, 635 Charles Young Drive, Los Angeles, CA, 90095-1769, USA.


Several dietary factors and their genetic modifiers play a role in neurological disease and affect the human brain. The structural and functional integrity of the living brain can be assessed using neuroimaging, enabling large-scale epidemiological studies to identify factors that help or harm the brain. Iron is one nutritional factor that comes entirely from our diet, and its storage and transport in the body are under strong genetic control. In this review, we discuss how neuroimaging can help to identify associations between brain integrity, genetic variations, and dietary factors such as iron. We also review iron's essential role in cognition, and we note some challenges and confounds involved in interpreting links between diet and brain health. Finally, we outline some recent discoveries regarding the genetics of iron and its effects on the brain, suggesting the promise of neuroimaging in revealing how dietary factors affect the brain.

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