Iodine Global Network (IGN)

Israel: Desalinated sea water linked to iodine deficiency

Hebrew University study suggests that desalination can dramatically increase the prevalence of inadequate iodine intake.

"There is no doubt that desalination is a blessing. However, we need to be mindful of unintended consequences," says Dr. Aron Troen from the Hebrew University's Institute of Biochemistry, Food Science and Nutrition, in the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment. "Desalination removes minerals from the water and could conceivably diminish intake of minerals such as iodine that serve as essential micronutrients," he adds.

His recent study, published on Public Health Nutrition, assessed the relationship between iodine intake and thyroid function in an area where drinking water is supplied from iodine-poor desalinated water. It found a surprisingly high prevalence of insufficient iodine intake and a strong association of thyroid dysfunction among adults with low intake of iodine.

The study was conducted in the city of Ashkelon on the southern Mediterranean coast of Israel -- a country with the highest percentage of desalinated water consumption in the world, where five desalination plants produce about 50 percent of its water.

"Our estimated intake data are supported by significant associations of intake with a diagnosis of iodine deficiency disorders and with elevated thyroglobulin, a putative biomarker of inadequate intake," says Dr. Troen.