Iodine Global Network (IGN)

IODINE Global Network

Thai iodine deficiency yields subpar infant IQs

An article in the April 21 Global Post liberally quotes ICCIDD vice-chair and regional coordinator Cres Eastman regarding his study of the environmental cause of mental handicaps in certain villages in Thailand suffering iodine deficiency. The article notes a study by the Thai health ministry showing the IQ of Thai children at 91. Even this is better than the 2002 figure of 89. The UNICEF nutrition advisor quoted attributed the continuing challenges of providing iodized salt in the region (and iodized fish oil in Thailand) to "weak government regulation."

“'People used to make jokes, cruel jokes, about people from the hills,' said endocrinologist Cres Eastman, an Australian and vice-chairman of the International Council for the Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders, or ICCIDD.

“'But a lot of the so-called stupidity, which they thought was genetic, was clearly not so,' he said. 'It was environmental.'

"A cretin, medically speaking, is a person born mentally handicapped and often physically deformed from an undernourished thyroid gland.

"A cretin is born deprived of iodine, an element commonly absorbed through milk, seafood and crops grown in iodine-rich soil. By lacing table salt with small amounts of iodine, cretinism has been virtually eradicated in the industrialized world.

"In recent decades, a push by the United Nations and the World Health Organization has brought most of the developing world along too. Roughly 70 percent of the world now eats iodized salt, the biggest preventer of cretinism, compared to just 20 percent in 1990.

"But while cretins have become rarer, too little iodine in a fetus or young child’s system still causes a more subtle problem: diminished IQs."