Consumption of Iron-Biofortified Beans Positively Affects Cognitive Performance in 18- to 27-Year-Old Rwandan Female College Students in an 18-Week Randomized Controlled Efficacy Trial

Examines the efficacy of iron-biofortified beans in improving cognition in women of reproductive age compared with control beans

Abstract

Evidence shows that iron deficiency in adulthood may affect cognitive performance, possibly by disrupting neurotransmitter regulation or brain energy metabolism. Women of reproductive age (WRA) are among those who are most vulnerable to iron deficiency; however, they have been largely ignored in the literature relating iron status to cognition. The authors’ aim was to determine the efficacy of iron-biofortified beans in improving cognition in WRA compared with control beans. A double-blind, randomized intervention study was conducted in 150 women aged 18–27 y with low iron status. Iron status was assessed based on hemoglobin, ferritin, transferrin receptor, and body iron values and on cognitive performance on 5 computerized tasks at baseline and endline. Groups did not differ on any variables at baseline. Per protocol analyses revealed that consumption of the biofortified beans resulted in a 17% larger improvement in the speed of spatial selective attention; a nearly 7-fold larger improvement in the speed, a 68% greater improvement in the efficiency, and a >2-fold greater improvement in the specificity of memory retrieval; and a >2-fold larger improvement in the speed and a >3-fold larger improvement in the efficiency of memory search—all of which are relative to consumption of the control beans (P < 0.01 for all comparisons).

Cognitive performance is sensitive to iron status, and consumption of iron-biofortified beans for 18 weeks improved cognitive performance, especially the efficiency of search and the speed of retrieval on memory tasks, in young adult women.

This work is an output of the HarvestPlus Programme. The Department for International Development is one of the main donors for HarvestPlus.

Citation

Murray-Kolb, Laura E., Michael J. Wenger, Samuel P. Scott, Stephanie E. Rhoten, Mercy G. Lung’aho, and Jere D. Haas. Consumption of iron-biofortified beans positively affects cognitive performance in 18- to 27-year-old Rwandan female college students in an 18-week randomized controlled efficacy trial. Journal of Nutrition 147 (11): 2109-2117. https://doi.org/10.3945/​jn.117.255356.

Consumption of Iron-Biofortified Beans Positively Affects Cognitive Performance in 18- to 27-Year-Old Rwandan Female College Students in an 18-Week Randomized Controlled Efficacy Trial

Published 1 November 2017