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Ann Clin Biochem. 2015 Nov;52(Pt 6):705-8. doi: 10.1177/0004563215597249. Epub 2015 Aug 3.

The new emergence of iodine deficiency in the UK: consequences for child neurodevelopment.

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Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK
Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK.


Adequate iodine intake is important during pregnancy as it is a component of the thyroid hormones that are crucial for fetal brain and neurological development. While randomized controlled trials in severe iodine deficiency have shown that iodine deficiency in pregnancy causes impaired offspring cognition, less is known of the effects in regions of mild/mild-to-moderate deficiency. The United Kingdom is now classified as mildly iodine deficient by the World Health Organization, based on a 2011 national study of 14-15-year-old schoolgirls. As pregnancy is the most critical time for brain development, we evaluated iodine status in pregnant women in Surrey (n = 100) and Oxford (n = 230). The median urinary iodine concentration was 85.3 μg/L in Surrey women, considerably lower than the WHO/United Nations Children's Fund/International Council for the Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders cut-off of 150 μg/L. Oxford women had similarly low status. We investigated whether that level of iodine deficiency was associated with adverse child cognitive effects using stored samples and data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children cohort. In adjusted analyses, we found a significant association between low maternal iodine status in early pregnancy (urinary iodine-to-creatinine ratio <150 μg/g) such that children had an approximately 60% greater risk of being in the bottom quartile of scores for verbal intelligence quotient, reading accuracy and comprehension. UK women who might become pregnant should ensure they have adequate iodine status to avoid compromising their children's brain development.


Endocrinology; clinical studies; nutrition; pregnancy

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