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Iron levels must be just right

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Oct 13, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- A Florida researcher warns taking iron-fortified vitamins may cause as many, or more, problems than it solves.

Cathy Levenson of Florida State University, in a study to be published in the upcoming edition of the journal Experimental Neurology, fed mice varying amounts of iron to determine levels that precipitated onset or hastened the progression of Parkinson's-like symptoms such as tremors and balance problems, both in healthy rodents and where risk factors existed.

High levels of iron caused Parkinson's-like symptoms even in healthy mice without apparent risk factors for the illness, while accelerating the decline and death of those already diagnosed with the disease. In contrast, low levels of iron delayed the onset of Parkinson's in mice with risk factors and slowed progress of the disease in those already infected.

But iron deficiencies in healthy risk-free rodents led to decreasing levels of dopamine, the neurotransmitter critical to relaying brain messages that control both balance and movement. Dopamine levels fall as the brain cells or "neurons" responsible for transporting it begin to "commit suicide" at higher-than-normal rates, triggering the chain of events that eventually precipitates the onset of Parkinson's disease.

Copyright 2004 by United Press International.

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