The research published in the Irish Medical Journal says iodine intake, which is essential to brain development in children, is improved by continued exposure to a seaweed-rich environment.
The two-decade study, led by Prof Peter Smyth of both University College Dublin (UCD) and NUI Galway, was sparked by his interest during his time in UCD medical school in iodine deficiency and its effect on the thyroid gland.
His study over 20 years compared urine samples taken from schoolchildren and women in three separate environments: the seaweed-rich coastal area of Carna, Co Galway; the coastal cities of Dublin, Galway and Belfast; and the inland areas of Dungannon, Co Tyrone, and Mullingar, Co Westmeath.
The seaweed “hotspot” of Carna scored highest of all, with 45.6 per cent of schoolchildren and 43 per cent of adults having iodine intake above the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendation. Between 2.3 per cent and 16 per cent of those tested in inland and low seaweed-abundant coastal areas met the WHO standard.