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Environ Geochem Health. 2015 Aug;37(4):605-18. doi: 10.1007/s10653-015-9681-4. Epub 2015 Feb 7.

The importance of iodine in public health.

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Thyroid Research Group, Institute of Molecular and Experimental Medicine, Cardiff University School of Medicine, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK,


Iodine (I) deficiency has been known for more than a century and is known to cause cretinism at the extreme end of the spectrum but also, importantly, impaired development and neurocognition in areas of mild deficiency. The WHO has indicated that median urinary iodine of 100-199 μg/l in a population is regarded as indicative of an adequate iodine intake. The understanding of the spectrum of iodine deficiency disorders led to the formation of The International Council for the Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders which has promulgated the use of household iodized salt and the use of such salt in food processing and manufacture. Iodine deficiency is particularly important in pregnancy as the fetus relies on maternal thyroxine (T4) exclusively during the first 14 weeks and also throughout gestation. As this hormone is critical to brain and nervous system maturation, low maternal T4 results in low child intelligence quotient. The recommendation for I intake in pregnancy is 250 μg/day to prevent fetal and child brain function impairment. During the past 25 years, the number of countries with I deficiency has reduced to 32; these still include many European developed countries. Sustainability of adequate iodine status must be achieved by continuous monitoring and where this has not been performed I deficiency has often recurred. More randomized controlled trials of iodine supplementation in pregnancy are required in mild iodine-deficient areas to inform public health strategy and subsequent government action on suitable provision of iodine to the population at risk.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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