Two studies show low Iodine during pregnancy reduces childhood intelligence and learning ability

May 2013

Objective:

To determine if iodine deficiency in pregnant women has an adverse effect on intelligence and learning in their children later in life.

Background:

The World Health Organisation (WHO) considers iodine deficiency to be “the single most important preventable cause of brain damage” worldwide. The UK is ranked in the top ten iodine-deficient countries.

Study 1 Design:

  • Iodine status was determined in 1040 first-trimester pregnant women from the UK Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) Study
  • They were classified according to the following WHO Criteria as iodine:
    • Sufficient =/ > 150 μg/L in urine
    • Deficient < 150 μg/L in urine

Study 1 Assessments:

  • All children were tested:
  • At age 8 for
    Child Intelligence Quotient (IQ) measured by the Weschler Intelligence Scale for Children
    Verbal, performance and total IQ scores were calculated
  • At age 9 for
    Reading speed, accuracy and comprehendsion< using the Neale Analysis of Reading Ability
    A “Reading Score” was determined by adding the number of correct responses when asked to read real words

Study 1 Conclusion

  • Iodine deficiency in pregnant women during early gestation interferes with proper brain develop and function in their babies causing lower IQ and learning performance during childhood years.
  • Iodine deficiency in the UK should be treated as a serious public-health issue that requires urgent attention.

Reference:

Bath et al. The Lancet 22 May 2013, doi 10.1016/S0140-6736(13)60436-5
Studentship funding for this study was provided by Wassen International Ltd./ Efamol Ltd.


Study 2 Design:

  • Iodine status was determined in 228 pregnant women at approximately 24 weeks pregnancy from The Royal Hobart Hospital (Tasmania) antenatal clinics between 1999-2001.
  • Pregnancies occurred during a period of mild iodine deficiency in the population with the children subsequently growing up during a time when sufficient iodine was being provided in their diet through voluntary iodine fortification.
  • The mother’s were classified according to the following WHO Criteria as iodine:
    • Sufficient =/ > 150 μg/L in urine
    • Deficient < 150 μg/L in urine

Study 2 Assessments:

Children were tested at age 9 yrs using the

  • Australian national curriculum assessment program for Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN)
    * Measures literacy [reading, writing and language conventions (spelling, grammar and punctuations)] and numeracy.
  • Tasmanian state curriculum Student Assessment and Reporting Information System (SARIS)
    * Measures English-literacy and mathematics-numeracy. It records student’s progress relative to local standards in speaking and listening, reading and writing, and the capacity to work mathematically, understanding numbers, algebra, function and pattern, space and measurement, and chance and data.

Study 2 Conclusion

  • Iodine deficiency in pregnant women interferes with proper brain develop and function in their babies causing reduced learning ability during childhood years.
  • Even mild iodine deficiency during pregnancy can have long-term negative impacts on a child’s learning ability, even if they are getting enough iodine during childhood years.

Reference:

Hynes KL et al. J Clin Endocrinol Metab2013 Apr 30. [Epub ahead of print]

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