The Effects of Iodine Deficiency in Pregnancy and Infancy

Authors

  • Michael B. Zimmermann

    Corresponding author
    1. Laboratory for Human Nutrition, Institute of Food, Nutrition and Health, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zürich, Switzerland
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Michael B. Zimmermann, Laboratory for Human Nutrition, Institute of Food, Nutrition and Health, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Schmelzbergstrasse 7, LFV D20, CH-8092 Zürich, Switzerland. E-mail: michael.zimmermann@hest.ethz.ch

Abstract

Iodine requirements are increased ≥50% during pregnancy. Iodine deficiency during pregnancy can cause maternal and fetal hypothyroidism and impair neurological development of the fetus. The consequences depend upon the timing and severity of the hypothyroidism; the most severe manifestation is cretinism. In moderate-to-severely iodine-deficient areas, controlled studies have demonstrated that iodine supplementation before or during early pregnancy eliminates new cases of cretinism, increases birthweight, reduces rates of perinatal and infant mortality and generally increases developmental scores in young children by 10–20%. Mild maternal iodine deficiency can cause thyroid dysfunction but whether it impairs cognitive and/or neurologic function in the offspring remains uncertain. Two meta-analyses have estimated that iodine-deficient populations experience a mean reduction in IQ of 12–13.5 points. In nearly all regions affected by iodine deficiency, salt iodisation is the most cost-effective way of delivering iodine and improving maternal and infant health.

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