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Drug Saf. 2000 Feb;22(2):89-95.

Iodine supplementation: benefits outweigh risks.

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International Council for Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders, Brussels, Belgium.


In 1990, iodine deficiency affected almost one-third of the world population and was the greatest single cause of preventable brain damage and mental retardation. Following a resolution adopted by the World Summit for Children in 1990. major programmes of iodine supplementation were implemented by the governments of the affected countries with the support of major donors. Iodisation of salt was recognised as the method of choice. Nine years later, by April 1999, 75% of the affected countries had legislation on salt iodisation and 68% of the affected populations had access to iodised salt. The prevalence of iodine deficiency disorders decreased drastically in most countries and the deficiency disappeared completely in some such as Peru. This result constitutes a public heath success unprecedented with a non-infectious disease. However, occasional adverse effects occurred. The principle effect is iodine-induced hyperthyroidism which occurs essentially in older people with autonomous nodular goitres, especially following iodine intake that is too rapid and of too massive an increment. The incidence of the disorder is usually low and reverts spontaneously to the background rate of hyperthyroidism or even below this rate after 1 to 10 years of iodine supplementation. The possible occurrence of iodine-induced thyroiditis in susceptible individuals has not been clearly demonstrated by large epidemiological surveys. Iodine supplementation is followed by an increased prevalence of occult papillary carcinoma of the thyroid discovered at autopsy but the prognosis of thyroid cancer is improved due to a shift towards differentiated forms of thyroid cancer that are diagnosed at earlier stages. Iodine-induced hyperthyroidism and other adverse effects can be almost entirely avoided by adequate and sustained quality control and monitoring of iodine supplementation which should also confirm adequate iodine intake. Available evidence clearly confirms that the benefits of correcting iodine deficiency far outweigh the risks of iodine supplementation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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