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DT Health: Iodine, most significant nutrient for women

Iodine deficiency is especially damaging during pregnancy and in early childhood.

By Dr Vaibhav Suresh, Preventive Health Specialist, Fortis Hospital

CHENNAI: Iodine is an essential micronutrient required to produce thyroid hormones. These thyroid hormones are responsible for normal thyroid function, growth, and development. Iodine deficiency can lead to multiple health and developmental consequences primarily known as Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD).

Iodine deficiency is especially damaging during pregnancy and in early childhood.

World health Organization (WHO) says, a population of school-age children should have a median urinary iodine concentration of at least 100ug/L, with less than 20% of values being lesser than 50ug/L.

For pregnant women, the median urinary iodine should be between 150ug/L and 249ug/L. In its severe forms, IDD can result in stillbirth, spontaneous abortion and congenital abnormalities such as cretinism — a grave, irreversible form of mental retardation that affects people living in iodine-deficient. Of even greater significance is the less visible, yet pervasive, mental impairment that reduces intellectual capacity that reduces the loss of learning abilities.

Among children, iodine-deficiency disorders can start before birth; risk their mental health and often their very survival. During the neonatal period, childhood and adolescence, iodine-deficiency disorders can lead to hypothyroidism.

Fertility, pregnancy and lactation

Iodine is absolutely essential for baby’s development in utero, as well as development in the early years of life. Women with lower iodine status take a longer time to conceive. Severe iodine deficiency in utero is also associated with increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, congenital abnormalities and low birth weight. Iodine is very important for thyroid development and brain development.

Even mild iodine deficiency during pregnancy is associated with neurological and cognitive impairments in children. Iodine deficiency also triggers the risk of breast cancer. Iodine deficiency is also associated with increased risk of fibrocystic breast disease; a condition characterised by lumpiness in one or both breasts. It is usually treated through eating more foods containing iodine, using iodised salt and taking iodine supplements. People with hypothyroidism are usually treated with a synthetic form of the thyroid hormone, which they will need to take for the rest of their lives.

Most people can get enough iodine from eating iodine rich foods like the seafood.

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