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Iodine deficiency during pregnancy can damage fetal brain

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According to a policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), approximately one-third of women of reproductive age are marginally iodine deficient. In addition, certain environmental pollutants can worsen the problem. The findings were published online on May 26 in the journal Pediatrics.

The report stresses that iodine deficiency can interfere with normal fetal brain development; furthermore, it increases vulnerability to the effects of certain environmental pollutants, such as nitrate, thiocyanate, and perchlorate. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should take a supplement containing adequate iodide; however, only approximately 15% do so. In addition, some prenatal supplements do not contain enough iodide and may not be labeled accurately. One source of iodine is from iodized salt; however, the report notes that the iodine deficiency may be due to the fact that salt in processed foods is not iodized. The American Thyroid Association and the National Academy of Sciences recommend that pregnant and breastfeeding women get 290 micrograms of iodide per day. In addition, they should use iodized table salt.

The AAP also recommends that pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid exposure to excess nitrate, which would usually occur from contaminated well water, and thiocyanate, which is in cigarette smoke. Perchlorate is currently undergoing evaluation for regulation as a water pollutant. The AAP stresses that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should proceed with appropriate regulation, and that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should address the mislabeling of the iodine content of prenatal/breastfeeding supplements.

Take home message:

All pregnant women, and women trying for a pregnancy, should take a prenatal vitamin. Check the label to determine that it contains at least 290 micrograms of iodine. Good sources of iodine in food are baked potatoes, milk, yogurt, cheddar cheese, dried seaweed, cod, shrimp, tuna, lobster, turkey breast, dried prunes, navy beans, eggs, bananas, strawberries, cranberries, corn, green beans, navy beans, and white bread. Do not over-amp on iodine. Risks of high iodine intake include both hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and goiter.