Iodine deficiency – we’re not getting the message through

iodine in fish photo by Debora Cartagena on CDC site
Sea fish – rich source of iodine

Women need a greater understanding of iodine deficiency issues, according to researchers from Ulster University.

Their study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, showed that only 43% of the women interviewed in Northern Ireland knew what the nutrient was, and just 27% had any awareness of iodine deficiency.

Almost half the women in their study failed to meet UK dietary recommendations of 140 µg per day – and that’s less than recommendations from The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Iodine is essential both before conception – to build a woman’s stores of the nutrient – and during pregnancy. It plays a vital role in the baby’s neuro-development; and deficiency, even at low levels, can lead to impaired cognitive development.

Highly preventable

Iodine deficiency is the world’s most preventable cause of brain damage in children across the globe, according to WHO. This new study suggests that the message is one for the wider world, not just less developed countries (where public health initiatives have tended to focus on iodised salt as a solution to the problem).

Iodine levels can be maintained naturally via sea fish and shellfish, as well as cereals, grains and dairy products. A re-education programme is required to highlight these sources, and to banish the old notion that fish is somehow detrimental to a mother-to-be’s health.

Read the study here, along with an associated news article from Nutraingredients. See also WHO’s Essential Nutrition Actions: improving maternal, newborn, infant and young child health and nutrition.

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