Originally published in the Irish News on November 8, 2016
Pregnant women are being encouraged to include iodine-rich foods such as dairy, fish, eggs and cranberries in their diet to avoid compromising their unborn children's brain development.
Speaking at last weeks Annual Dairy Council Nutrition Lectures at Ulster University, Professor Margaret Rayman, a specialist in nutritional medicine from the University of Surrey, highlighted how iodine deficiency in pregnancy has been linked to lower IQ and reading ability in children.
Professor Rayman and her research team have found that children whose mothers were iodine deficient in pregnancy (67 per cent of those surveyed) had an approximately 60 per cent greater risk of being in the bottom quarter of scores for IQ and reading ability at eight to nine years old. The more severe the level of iodine deficiency in the mother, the worse the effects on verbal IQ and reading comprehension.
"The rise in consumption of milk-alternatives such as soya and almond drinks, the majority of which do not contain iodine, means that some women may be missing out on this vital nutrient,” she said.
Separately, the most recent National Diet & Nutrition Survey found that more than a quarter of girls aged 11-18 in Britain and Northern Ireland were not getting sufficient iodine.