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Proc Nutr Soc. 2010 Feb;69(1):133-43. doi: 10.1017/S0029665109991819. Epub 2009 Dec 8.

Symposium on 'Geographical and geological influences on nutrition': Iodine deficiency in industrialised countries.

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Human Nutrition Laboratory, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich, Schmelzbergstrasse 7, LFV E19, CH-8092 Zürich, Switzerland.


Iodine deficiency is not only a problem in developing regions; it also affects many industrialised countries. Globally, two billion individuals have an insufficient iodine intake, and approximately 50% of continental Europe remains mildly iodine deficient. Iodine intakes in other industrialised countries, including the USA and Australia, have fallen in recent years. Iodine deficiency has reappeared in Australia, as a result of declining iodine residues in milk products because of decreased iodophor use by the dairy industry. In the USA, although the general population is iodine sufficient, it is uncertain whether iodine intakes are adequate in pregnancy, which has led to calls for iodine supplementation. The few available data suggest that pregnant women in the Republic of Ireland and the UK are now mildly iodine deficient, possibly as a result of reduced use of iodophors by the dairy industry, as observed in Australia. Representative data on iodine status in children and pregnant women in the UK are urgently needed to inform health policy. In most industrialised countries the best strategy to control iodine deficiency is carefully-monitored salt iodisation. However, because approximately 90% of salt consumption in industrialised countries is from purchased processed foods, the iodisation of household salt only will not supply adequate iodine. Thus, in order to successfully control iodine deficiency in industrialised countries it is critical that the food industry use iodised salt. The current push to reduce salt consumption to prevent chronic diseases and the policy of salt iodisation to eliminate iodine deficiency do not conflict; iodisation methods can fortify salt to provide recommended iodine intakes even if per capita salt intakes are reduced to <5 g/d.

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