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IDIBGI study identifies a link between cognition, intestinal microbiota and ferritin

12 March 2024
  • The paper, published in the scientific journal Gut Microbes, provides new insights into the metabolic connections that influence the relationship between diet and mental health.

A study by the Girona Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBGI) describes a relationship between intestinal microbiota, iron deposits in the blood and cognition. The association has been identified in a large sample of more than a thousand people, data collected in the IDIBGI and IRB Lleida's Imagenoma of Ageing project. The findings represent new evidence on how diet and gut microbiota may influence mental health.

The paper, published in the scientific journal Gut Microbes, finds that blood levels of ferritin, a protein involved in iron storage, are positively linked to the brain's executive function, which is responsible for skills such as planning, inhibition, flexibility, verbal fluency and memory, all of which have a major impact on our activities of daily living. In addition, it identifies some bacterial species present in the gut microbiota that are negatively related to both blood ferritin levels and the executive function of the brain.

At the molecular level, the research team has also found specific metabolic pathways that seem to influence the relationship between iron and cognition. "This new association leads us to think that the gut microbiota could modulate the effects of iron on cognition. We will have to explore whether this is the case”, says Dr. Jordi Mayneris-Perxachs,consolidated researcher of the Nutrition, Eumetabolism and Health group of the IDIBGI and the CIBEROBN, who has led this publication.

“There is growing evidence of a gut microbiota-brain axis. If we can understand this link, it could open the door to therapies for cognitive disorders based on modifying the microbiota through dietary changes”, explains Dr. José Manuel Fernández-Real, leader of the same research group and, at the same time, head of the Endocrinology Section at the Trueta Hospital in Girona. Dr. Fernández-Real is also a corresponding author of this study.

The first author of the article is Marisel Rosell-Díaz, pre-doctoral researcher in the same group who is part of the European SmartAge project (Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA)-Innovative Training Networks (ITN), funded by the Horizon 2020 programme.Researchers from the FISABIO Foundation - CIBERESP and the Universitat de Lleida (UdL) - Institute for Research in Biomedicine of Lleida (IRBLleida) have also collaborated.

Reference Article: Marisel Rosell-Díaz, Elena Santos-González, Anna Motger-Albertí, Lluís Ramió-Torrentà, Josep Garre-Olmo, Vicente Pérez-Brocal, Andrés Moya, Mariona Jové, Reinald Pamplona, Josep Puig, Rafael Ramos, José Manuel Fernández-Real & Jordi Mayneris-Perxachs (2023) Gut microbiota links to serum ferritin and cognition, Gut Microbes, 15:2, 2290318, DOI: 10.1080/19490976.2023.2290318


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