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Iodised salt alone, no remedy for iodine-deficient pregnant women

Posted:  Tuesday, December 01, 2015

For long, science has lauded iodised salt as the panacea for all iodine deficiency disorders. However, researchers from Turkey have challenged this strongly held view with their study findings in pregnant women. Their recent study found high levels of iodine deficiency among pregnant women even with compulsory iodisation of table salt, indicating the need for iodine supplements to combat the lack.

The study published online in the British Journal of Nutrition looked at the effect of mandatory iodisation of table salt among pregnant woman in the Trabzon area of Turkey. This area once held the reputation for being ‘severely iodine deficient’. However, after the mandatory iodisation of table salt, Trabzon has now attained the tag of being “iodine sufficient”.

For the study, the researchers examined 864 healthy pregnant women (average age 28 years) who were not taking iodine supplements. The women underwent thyroid ultrasonographies and screening for urinary iodine concentrations and thyroid function.

The researchers found the rate of iodised salt usage among the women to be 90.7%. The average urine concentration was reported as 102 µg/l and the 25th-75th percentile ranged from 62-143 µg/l. The average urinary iodine levels during the first, second and third trimesters were found to be 122 µg/l, 97 µg/l, and 87 µg/l, respectively.

Commenting on the study findings, the researchers said, “Our study demonstrates that, although the iodine status among school-age children has been rectified, iodine deficiency is still prevalent among pregnant women. Current knowledge is in favour of iodine supplementation in this group.”

Iodine is essential for the production of thyroid hormones and the development of the nervous system. Pregnant women in particular need higher levels of iodine to cope with the metabolic changes typical of pregnancy. The researchers therefore recommend that iodine-deficient pregnant women take iodine supplements (100-200 µg/day) as well as iodised salt to meet their iodine needs and overcome iodine deficiency.

However, a study by Chinese researchers has asked doctors to exercise caution when advising pregnant women to increase their iodine intake. They reported a significantly higher prevalence of thyroid disease, especially subclinical hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland) among lactating women with excess iodine consumption compared to women residing in areas with lower iodine levels in water.

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