Iodine deficiency in pregnant women found responsible for poor mental capacity in babies

Emobileclinic Researchers Corner 



The importance of iodine in the mental development of babies cannot be underestimated as it is vital in obtaining hormones produced by the thyroid glands. The substance is ingested through dairy products and seafood.

In a recent study by researchers from Bristol and Surrey Universities both located in England published by the Lancet showed that iodine deficiency during pregnancy may have a negative effect on babies’ mental development.

Studies have shown that iodine deficiency has significant negative effects on brain development. However, limited studies had focused on the effect of moderate or mild iodine deficiency during pregnancy on the mental development of the baby. It is against this background that the researchers used data and samples from Bristol-based Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), commonly called “Children of the 90s.” ALSPAC is a long-term health research project in where over 14,000 mothers participated during pregnancy in 1991 and 1992 and the health and development of their offspring have been tracked closely ever since.

Urine samples were taken from 1040 pregnant women in first trimester stage of pregnancy to examine the iodine concentration. After analyzing the World Health Organization guidelines on recommended amounts of iodine during pregnancy, they grouped women who had an iodine-to-creatinine ratio of under 150 μg/g as being iodine deficient while those with a ratio of 150 μg/g or more as iodine sufficient.

About 67% of the women were classified at less than 150 μg/g. Cognitive developments of the women’s babies was examined by measuring child IQ at 8 years and reading skills at the age of 9. After ruling out external factors such as parental education and breast-feeding, the team discovered that the babies of women in the iodine deficient group had likelihood to have low scores of verbal IQ, reading comprehension and reading accuracy.

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Furthermore, mother with low iodine concentration will have babies with low average scores in reading ability and IQ.
Dr Sarah Bath says: “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 web-sites of the University of Surrey and the British Dietetic Association. Kelp supplements should be avoided as they may have excessive levels of iodine.”




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