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Pregnant women in the UK found to be iodine deficient

Jun 3, 2015 | 2 min read
UK pregnant women found to be iodine deficient

What is iodine?

Iodine is essential for the synthesis of thyroid hormones which are crucial for neuro-development in the womb and through infancy. An iodine deficiency during pregnancy has been linked to developmental impairments.

Through these hormones, iodine has an important role in energy-yielding metabolism and many other physiological processes. Iodine deficiency is associated with an increased frequency of goitre (an abnormal swelling of the thyroid gland that causes a lump to form in the neck) and hypothyroidism (an under active thyroid causing tiredness, weight gain and feeling depressed).

Iodine is the worlds most prevalent cause of brain damage

The World Health Organisation report that "iodine deficiency is the world’s most prevalent, yet easily preventable, cause of brain damage". It is predominantly a problem in Asia and Africa where is is being effectively treated with iodized salt.

Iodine deficiency disorders can start before birth, jeopardise children’s mental health. Serious iodine deficiency during pregnancy can result in stillbirth, spontaneous abortion. However, of far greater significance is the less visible effect of iodine deficiency: mental impairment which reduces intellectual capacity at home, in school and at work.

Consumption of iodine in UK pregnant women is too low

A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition reported that the average intake of iodine for pregnant women in the UK was 190mg, this falls way below the 250mg recommended by the World Health Organisation.

In May 2014 following a request from the European Commission, scientific studies were undertaken resulting in the recommended intake for pregnant women being reassessed and proposed at 200mg per day.

The actual recommendation in the UK is 140mg per day - this has led to criticism that women lack nutritional education to help them make the right dietary choices. Women in the UK based study were found to be aware of nutritional requirements such as folic acid and iron, but most were unaware of the importance of iodine and how to achieve the recommended levels of iodine intake.

The discovery of an iodine deficiency problem in the UK is staggering considering how easy it is to prevent, also because the UK is a first world country supposedly without the educational problems which hinder countries such as Africa.

Natural sources of iodine

Sea fish, shellfish and to a lesser extent some cereals and grains are good food sources of iodine. Convenient iodine supplementation can also be found in Kelp supplements.

* Over supplementation of iodine during pregnancy can be harmful and lead to the development of thyroid hormone deficiency so the UK NHS advise to consult a doctor before taking a iodine supplement.

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