AMUK Healthy Living Blog


Pregnancy iodine pills 'good for babies & economy'

Author : Dr Apelles Econs
Related Conditions : Babies and Children's problems

A recent article in the Health section of BBC news reported that "a study in The Lancet concluded that if all pregnant women took a daily dose of Iodine, it could boost children's IQ scores, causing health improvements.

Iodine is important for healthy brain development and there is some evidence that the UK population may not be getting enough."

Dr. Econs comments below on the article :

This is the latest study to highlight the benefits of iodine in babies. The recommendations are sound but in my view, incomplete - there are several obvious omissions.
Once more, as often is the case when a nutrient is “discovered” to have positive benefits on human health, these benefits are presented in an “economic” context, that of savings to the NHS.

Firstly, what has been known for decades about iodine:
    •    iodine deficiency is known to cause delayed intellectual development (even “cretinism”) in children
    •    its effects are most pronounced in children with Autism and Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and other behavioural problems, which should be tested routinely
    •    iodine deficiency has a major role to play in a healthy thyroid function (goitres are associated with low iodine intake)
    •    In the world ranking of iodine deficiency, Britain occupies an (unenviable) eighth position, way above many “developing” nations (many other western countries enrich their flour with iodine - we don’t!)
    •    a deficiency is a common laboratory finding in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and food or chemical sensitivities, whose lymphocytes often show signs of up-regulation
    •    Iodine is known to enhance natural detoxification and has a serious protective role against infections, promoting strong natural immunity.
I am always intrigued that, when studies produce a conclusive evidence about the value of a nutrient in human health (be it a mineral, a vitamin or others), neither researchers nor government advisers on Health mention that tests are available to assess a person’s nutritional status before supplementation is taken up seriously (vitamin D has been a recent example and I understand that many GP’s are still reluctant to test it, although it is another extremely common deficiency and the test is widely available in all NHS hospitals). I guess the reason for this is cost logistics. However, if you knew that excess of a nutrient taken long term, can also suppress your thyroid function, as the case is with iodine, would you not be keen to have this monitored with a simple laboratory test?

Whilst this study has confirmed a “cost effective” way to reduce the incidence of ill health in babies, it was not designed to clarify how many of those expectant women were actually deficient in iodine. A guess was two thirds of pregnant women. Those deficient are more likely to experience some of the effects of low iodine in their own health, let alone that of their offspring.

To suggest that “a healthy diet offers sufficient amounts of iodine” as some dieticians have said, is plainly laughable, because deficiencies are common amongst many people who have both access to information and means to enjoy an optimised diet; it overlooks the gaping gap of the absence of medical guidance on this point. Neither general practitioners nor hospital specialists have received any training to use the means available to them to recognise such important nutritional issues and often dismiss their role as “irrelevant” to health.

Having tested iodine (urine) levels in hundreds of people over the last 15 years, I feel it is an irresponsible view that supplements of iodine are “dangerous” and should not be taken, when the very health of the nation could improve, from infancy to old age. Regrettably, medical “evidence” i.e. “proof” , materialises in a much slower pace than the rise in human awareness. The ethical hurdles to provide such evidence are too many, when there is no serious commercial interest on nutrients, which the pharmaceutical industry cannot license and therefore unwilling to justify.


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