Pregnant women are not getting enough information about the need to include iodine in their diets, despite high awareness of general advice for pregnancy nutrition. While 96% of pregnant women surveyed by researchers were aware of general nutritional recommendations for pregnant women, only 12% were aware of iodine-specific advice.
The study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, estimated the median intake of iodine during pregnancy was 190 micrograms (mcg) per day, with 74% consuming less than the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended intake of 250 mcg daily. The study surveyed 1,026 women across the UK who were pregnant or mothers of children aged up to 36 months. Participants were asked about their awareness of nutritional guidelines and completed a food frequency questionnaire.
Dr Emilie Combet, who led the research at the University of Glasgow, said: “Women aren’t receiving the message about the importance of iodine in pregnancy, meaning they cannot make informed choices to ensure they get the amount they require.”
Knowledge of iodine-rich foods was low, with 56% unable to identify any iodine-rich food and the majority wrongfully believing dark green vegetables and table salt had high levels. Most, 84% were unaware that iodine from diet is important for the healthy development of the unborn baby, and only 11% had heard about iodine from a healthcare professional.
Dr Combet said: “There is an ongoing debate as to whether there should be some form of fortification of food with iodine. Iodine-fortified salt is common in other countries, but using salt as the delivery method has raised concerns since it is perceived to clash with public health messaging around reducing salt intake to combat high blood pressure. However, other countries have demonstrated that both measures could be held simultaneously. We need to work toward a solution."