A team of Penn State University neuroscientists found that low doses of Ritalin® help improve focus in iron-deficient rats, though higher doses tended to make the rats hyperactive. A control group of rats that were not iron deficient showed no positive or negative change in performance when given low doses or Ritalin®.
Iron deficiency in the third trimester of pregnancy or during the first six months of life can cause brain damage lasting through early adulthood in children. The deficiency can impair motor function and cause problems in focusing and attention.
Iron deficiency takes a major hit on dopamine systems in the body, according to Byron C. Jones, professor of biobehavioral health at Penn State. This prompted researchers to look into drug treatments that affect dopamine, which is important in sustaining and shifting attention.
Jones said that Ritalin® may not be the best drug of choice, but said it has shown some benefit in treating the effects of early-life iron deficiency.
Iron deficiency ranks as one of the 10 causes of disease in children, affecting more than 2 billion kids worldwide.