Iron, brain and restless legs syndrome

Sleep Med Rev. 2001 Aug;5(4):277-286. doi: 10.1053/smrv.2001.0156.


Iron is the most important transitional metal in the body, as it is implicated in many metabolic processes, mostly related to its capacity as an electron donor/acceptor. Iron deficiency has been long been known to cause anaemia, iron excess to cause haemochromatosis. As excess free iron can cause oxidative damage, it is important that the levels of iron in the body are tightly regulated which appears to be done only by digestive absorption, as there is no known regulating mechanism for elimination of iron. The amount of free iron is also kept to a minimum thanks to binding to transferrin for transport, and to ferritin for storage. Recent research has put emphasis on the possible role of excess iron in the brain in several degenerative diseases. Iron deficiency in the central nervous system is known to cause motor impairment and cognitive deficits; more recently, it has been suggested that it may play a role in the pathophysiology of the restless leg syndrome. 2001 Harcourt Publishers Ltd