I have written many times about the problems that are associated with iodine deficiency. Here, I want to continue to focus on pregnant women and the importance of iodine for their health. The fetus is dependent on the maternal stores of iodine. If the mother is deficient, the fetus will be affected.
• The World Health Organization (WHO) states that iodine deficiency is the world’s greatest single cause of preventable mental retardation.
• The WHO estimates that there are 300 million school-age children worldwide who are iodine deficient. That equals about 36 percent of all school-age children.
• Presently, 72 percent of the world’s population is affected by iodine deficiency.
The thyroid gland forms during the first and second trimesters of pregnancy. During this time, the fetus is dependent on the mother for adequate iodine and thyroid hormone. Unfortunately, most American women of child-bearing age are iodine-deficient. The most recent data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found that nearly 60 percent of women of childbearing age were suffering from iodine deficiency.
More specifically, almost 40 percent had mild to moderate deficiency while 11 percent had moderate to severe deficiency and more than 5 percent had severely low levels of iodine.Keep in mind that the ranges used by the NHANES group were much too low. That means that the iodine deficiency epidemic is even worse than indicated by this study.
My partners and I have examined more than 6,000 patients and found that over 95 percent are iodine deficient. In particular, the number of young women of childbearing age who are iodine deficient is a recipe for disaster.
How does iodine deficiency in the mother translate into health problems for her children? For one thing, iodine deficiency in utero can cause mental retardation. It has also been shown to cause a decline in IQ.
One study compared three groups of pregnant women who received 200 mcg per day of potassium iodide.
The first group started taking iodine at the beginning of the first trimester. The second group took the same amount of iodine after the first trimester, and the third group took iodine after pregnancy. The researchers measured IQ results in the children at 18 months, and the results were astounding.
The children’s IQ in group one was normal: 102. The IQ of the children in group two, who started taking iodine at week 12 of pregnancy, was reduced to 92. Group 3, which only took iodine after pregnancy, had an average IQ of 87.5.
What does this tell us? This study (along with many others) points out that it is important to correct iodine deficiency before pregnancy.
Remember, the thyroid and neurological pathways of the fetus depend on normal thyroid and iodine levels to optimally develop. Even a slight delay in iodine supplementation can have disastrous consequences. In addition to lower IQ, Italian researchers found that ADHD occurs at a much higher rate in iodine deficient mothers
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