A recent study in the UK revealed that out of 1,000 pregnant women, those who consumed lower amounts of iodine were more likely to have children with lower IQs and reading abilities.
Iodine is essential for producing hormones made by the thyroid gland, which has a direct effect on the development of the brain. A severe deficiency is the leading cause of preventable brain damage in the world.
In many countries, iodine is added to table salt to give “ iodized salt”. Iodized salt is not widely available in the UK.
Researchers at Surrey and Bristol Universities looked at iodine levels in urine samples taken from pregnant women in south-west England. The study showed that iodine deficiency was common, affecting two-thirds of women.
The study showed that the children of women with iodine deficiency went on to have slightly lower IQs at the age of eight and worse reading ability at age nine.
Dr Sarah Bath told the BBC: “We saw a three-point IQ difference between children who were born to mothers with low iodine in early pregnancy and children who were born to mothers above the cut-off.”
Professor Margaret Rayman of the University of Surrey, who led the study, said: “Our results clearly show the importance of adequate iodine status during early pregnancy, and emphasise the risk that iodine deficiency can pose to the developing infant, even in a country classified as only mildly iodine deficient.”
Researchers said pregnant women should ensure they get enough iodine by eating dairy products and fish, as well as drinking milk, but warned against seaweed supplements, as they can have too much iodine and could cause problems.
Dr Mark Vanderpump, a consultant physician at the Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust warns, “If you take a supplement during pregnancy, the thyroid gets stunned and goes down. Taking a supplement during pregnancy may not be the best thing to do.”
Iodine is found in a range of foods, the richest sources being fish and dairy products. Seaweed is a concentrated source of iodine, but it can provide excessive amounts (particularly so in the case of brown seaweed such as kelp) and therefore eating seaweed more than once a week is not
recommended, especially during pregnancy.
Dr Sarah Bath, a co-author and registered dietician, said: “Pregnant women and those planning a pregnancy should ensure adequate iodine intake; good dietary sources are milk, dairy products and fish. Women who avoid these foods and are seeking alternative iodine sources can consult the iodine fact sheet that we have developed, which is available on the websites of the University of Surrey and the British Dietetic Association.”
Iodine, Pregnancy and Optimal IQ
Iodine is a critical micro-nutrient that is deficient in much of the world. Many women in America have low iodine. The minimal RDA may not be the optimal intake for pregnancy. This study shows that women with mild deficiency have children whose mental acuity tests taken 9 years later show a statistically significant reduction in mental ability. That means iodine is a must for pregnant women.
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