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Jan 23rd 2024

How Iodine Deficiency in Mothers Affects Kids

. . . plus, one more reason choosing to breastfeed benefits newborns

Iodine deficiency is a global problem. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates 72% of the world’s population is iodine deficient. In the U.S. alone—according to the most recent CDC National Health and Nutrition Survey (NHANES)—the number of people with moderate to severe iodine deficiency (<50ug/L urinary iodine concentrations) increased some 300% since 1970.

Iodine is essential for cell metabolism. But it’s better known for its role in regulating the rate of metabolism and production of thyroid hormones. Given this critical role in thyroid function, it’s no wonder we’ve seen an explosion of thyroid disease. Additionally, iodine deficiency is known to cause birth defects, reduced mental capacities, ADD, autism, increased risk of breast, prostate, ovarian, and other cancers, infertility, and more.

Now, here’s more reason to be concerned about the most vulnerable in our society…our children.

Why is iodine so important to a newborn?

Scientists have known for years that iodine is critical in the development of a baby’s brain and nervous system.

Previous studies have shown that even a mild iodine deficiency in pregnant women negatively impacts a child’s IQ later in life. In fact, a separate meta-analysis of 18 clinical studies found an association between iodine deficiency and a 13.5 point lower IQ score in both children and adolescents. Besides lower IQ, Italian researchers discovered a higher incidence of ADHD in children of iodine deficient mothers.

This epidemic is so grave, the WHO declared iodine deficiency to be the single greatest cause of preventable mental retardation.

With nearly 6 in 10 American women of childbearing age suffering iodine deficiency, that puts a significant health burden on a large percentage of developing fetuses. Here’s why.

A baby’s thyroid gland forms during the first two trimesters of pregnancy. Thus, the fetus is dependent on the mother for adequate iodine and thyroid hormone. So if mom is deficient, the baby is at greater risk for developing a compromised nervous system and brain function.

But the concern with iodine deficiency doesn’t end at birth

Once outside the womb, a newborn must rely on its own thyroid gland for adequate iodine. However, the newborn’s thyroid gland only stores iodine for about 24 hours. That means it needs to get a fresh source of iodine from its diet.

For most babies, that means breast milk or baby formula. Yet one sampling of breastfeeding women showed nearly half provide insufficient iodine to meet the infant’s dietary needs. And, access to baby formulas containing enough added iodine is sometimes limited.

While supplementation seems the obvious answer, some scientists wondered…is it better to supplement the mother or her baby?

So, Swiss researchers—led by Raschida Bouhouch, PhD student in the Laboratory of Human Nutrition at ETH Zurich—recruited 241 mother-and-child pairings from Morocco. They gave half the mothers a single high-dose iodine capsule during the first 8 weeks after birth. Their babies received a placebo. The method was reversed for the other half of participants. Then, they monitored the iodine status of both mothers and their babies for one year.

What did they find?

Both methods fell short in providing adequate levels of iodine to mother and child. However, scientists showed for the first time that giving an iodine capsule to the mother was more effective than administering it to the child directly.

In fact, scientists were surprised to discover that administration of iodine to the mother delivered an astonishing amount of the nutrient from her breast milk to the child. “The mother’s body is apparently programmed to put all its iodine reserves into nourishing the child, and does not keep sufficient reserves for itself,” Bouhouch explained.

A child’s body appears to absorb iodine better when it is passed through breast milk than in a pre-processed form, the researchers concluded.

Of course, we couldn’t agree more. Getting any required nutrient from natural means is always better than from processed sources. In fact, you can read our previous article to learn more about the causes of iodine deficiency, as well as steps to take to restore your body’s reserves through diet and supplementation.

If you are experiencing symptoms of thyroid disease, cancer, or any number of health problems associated with iodine deficiency—or you have ongoing concerns about the continued fallout from Japan’s 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster—we highly recommend getting your iodine levels tested regularly.

If you are deficient, you may want to consider iodine supplementation. Additionally, you can call our office and we’ll help you customize one of our Beyond Health supplement support kits to optimize your antioxidant status and DNA repair capability…and make iodine deficiency a thing of the past.

If you’ve suffered symptoms of poor thyroid function or corrected an iodine deficiency, please tell us about your experiences in the comments section below.





Information contained in NewsClips articles should not be construed as personal medical advice or instruction. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.