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Iodine supplementation in expectant mothers may benefit nations economically!

Posted:  Friday, August 14, 2015

An exciting modelling research has found that healthcare systems and the society could be richer by simply ensuring supplementation of the key nutrient iodine in pregnant women. The study, conducted in UK, a country deemed to be mildly iodine deficient, found that iodine supplementation in pregnant women could save the National Health Service (NHS) around £199 per expectant mother. Additionally, it could also provide nearly £4500 worth benefits to society due to increased lifetime earnings and lower public sector costs.

These results were published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal. Researchers from the University of Birmingham conducted this study to identify the cost-effectiveness of iodine supplementation versus no intervention in pregnant women. They used data from a systematic review of published studies and expert opinion, and modelled the economic benefits in terms of direct health service savings and monetary benefits to the society due to additional IQ points in children.

They found that iodine supplementation in pregnancy resulted in benefits equivalent to 1.22 IQ points per child in addition to monetary benefits. Iodine is a nutrient not naturally made in the body and must be obtained from seafood and supplements. Research has shown that iodine deficiency during the critical brain growth period in pregnancy could result in substantial mental impairment and delayed development in children. In turn, this translates to lower IQ as well as reduced educational attainment and earning potential.

No wonder, the World Health Organization (WHO) and European Food Safety Authority recommend that pregnant and breastfeeding women take iodine supplements daily. Commenting on the study findings, the authors concluded saying, “As food fortification alone may not be enough to achieve iodine sufficiency for pregnant women, our results strengthen the case for universal iodine supplementation of all women before and during pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding in mild-to-moderate iodine deficient countries."

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