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Iodine Deficiency In Pregnant Women Tied to Children with Lower IQs

Update Date: May 22, 2013 11:37 AM EDT

Iodine, which is produced by the thyroid glands, is vital in promoting healthy fetal brain development. Iodine deficiency could lead to brain damage that would have otherwise been preventable through healthy dieting and supplements. Researchers remind people of the importance of iodine once again in a new study conducted by researchers from Surrey and Bristol Universities. In this study, the head investigator, Professor Margaret Rayman and co-author, Dr. Sara Bath, discovered that women who were iodine deficient during their pregnancies tended to have children who had lower intelligence quotients (IQs).

The study evaluated data provided by the Bristol-based Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), which was also known as the 'Children of the 90s' study. This study compiled data from over 14,000 pregnant women who enrolled in 1991 or 1992. In the new study, researchers looked at 1040 pregnant women and their iodine levels measured via urine samples during the first trimester. The researchers discovered that roughly two-thirds of the women were iodine deficient. This particular group of women also had children with reading IQ levels that were slightly lower at the age of eight in comparison to children born to mothers who were not iodine deficient. By the age of nine, these children had lowered reading abilities as well.

"We saw a three-point IQ difference between children who were born to mothers with low iodine in early pregnancy and children who were born to mothers above the cut-off." Bath told BBC.

Based from these findings, the researchers recommend pregnant women to eat foods that are iodine-rich, such as dairy products and milk. A full list of recommendations was published on the British Dietetic Association website. The researchers stated that since women could be unaware of their pregnancies, it is important to incorporate iodine everyday. They recommend pregnant women consume a daily amount of 250 micrograms of iodine. For adults in general, a minimum of 150 micrograms should be sufficient. The researchers, however, warned against overconsumption of iodine via supplements.

"Our advice is to make sure they have enough iodine intake, and take additional iodine in safely, probably from food - dairy products, fish," said Rayman. The researchers stress that organic milk is one of the largest culprits of iodine deficiency. Many people do not realize that organic milk has 42 percent less iodine than regular milk, and thus, for pregnant mothers who choose organic milk, they must remember to add iodine to their diets in another way.

The study was published in The Lancet.

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