Iodine Global Network (IGN)

Symposium on Iodine & Pregnancy

17 March 2016, London
On 17 March 2016, the Iodine Global Network held a Symposium on Iodine and Pregnancy for health professionals, at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, London, UK

Recent studies have found that UK pregnant women are mildly-to-moderately iodine deficient. This is a concern, as a study published in the Lancet in 2013 showed that iodine deficiency in pregnancy was linked to lower IQ and reading ability in children up to 9 years. The aim of this symposium was to:

  • Review the role and importance of iodine in pregnancy
  • Discuss the iodine status in pregnancy in the UK
  • Promote strategies for optimal iodine nutrition in pregnancy in the UK

Symposium in the media

Iodine & Pregnancy SymposiumAchtung Link öffnet sich in einem neuen Fenster
by Erica Hocking, Senior Nutrition Scientist, for the Dairy Council

EuSalt Newsletter - A Grain of Salt April 2016 (p 2)Achtung Link öffnet sich in einem neuen Fenster

Iodine deficiency in the UK: grabbing the low-hanging fruitAchtung Link öffnet sich in einem neuen Fenster
Editorial in Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol 2016, published 26 April 2016

Summary of presentations & downloads

The following summaries are excerpted from a report by Erica Hocking, Senior Nutrition Scientist, for the Dairy Council published on 17 March, 2016 (link above).
Dr Mark Vanderpump, Royal Free Hospital London and National Co-ordinator and IGN UK, presented a brief overview of iodine deficiency and the UK’s status within a global context.

The UK has a history of iodine deficiency which is less pronounced now compared to the 1950s, but is still classified as mild-to-moderate by WHO. The main sources of iodine in the diet include milk and dairy foods, and bread.

The UK is in the top 10 iodine-deficient countries based on iodine status in school-age children.

Iodine in pregnancy (presentation coming soon)

Professor Michael Zimmermann, Professor of Human Nutrition at ETH Zurich, and Chair of the IGN, explained that there is a large increase in iodine requirement during pregnancy. The WHO recommended intake is 150 mcg for females aged over 12 years and 250 mcg for pregnancy – both higher than the UK recommendation of 140 mg of teenage and adult women with no increment for pregnancy.

Mild-to-severe iodine deficiency in pregnancy can have severe implications for the fetus, particularly the developing brain - ranging from mild to severe brain damage that can affect IQ. Therefore women should ensure they are iodine sufficient before planning a pregnancy.

WHO recommend universal salt iodisation (USI) and supplementation for women during pregnancy and lactation as the key strategy to eliminate IDD.

Iodine in pregnancy in the UK

Professor Margaret Rayman, University of Surrey, presented research on iodine status in the UK. She described the first national survey since the 1940s, which measured the UIC in 737 teenage girls aged 14-15 years across 9 centres in the UK. The median UIC was 80.1 mcg/L which indicates mild iodine deficiency.

Up to 40% of pregnant women may have intakes less than half the WHO estimated average requirement (EAR) in certain parts of the UK.

All pregnant women should be made aware that iodine deficiency in pregnancy is common and that iodine deficiency has adverse consequences for their child’s brain development. Ideally women should have adequate iodine stores before entering pregnancy and should know what the good food sources of iodine in UK areAchtung Link öffnet sich in einem neuen Fenster.
Mr Michael Marsh, consultant obstetrician at King’s College Hospital London, explained the implications of a low IQ. A high IQ is associated with better educational achievement, well-paid employment, enhanced social status, less criminal behaviour and a longer life. Low IQ is related to a wide-range of problems and is thought to cost the government billions.

Professor Kate Jolly, Professor of Public Health at University of Birmingham, explained her research looking at supplementation of iodine during pregnancy and subsequent IQ of the child. Her findings showed that the NHS could save £199 per woman if supplemented and could increase IQ by 1.22 point. The UK recommends supplementation of iron, folic acid and other nutrients for pregnancy but not for iodine, which could be putting UK women and their children at risk.

Iodine nutrition in the UK: is there enough for pregnancy?

Dr Sarah Bath, MRC fellow at University of Surrey, gave an overview of the food sources containing iodine. Although milk may not be as high in iodine as fish, it contributes a significant amount more to the UK diet: research from 2014 showed that high milk intakes in women were associated with higher or better iodine status.

The UK is one of the few countries which have no recommendation for iodine supplementation during pregnancy or lactation. Dr Bath went on to show that 2-3 portions of dairy can help meet dietary iodine recommendations.
Salt Iodination – the Danish experience

Professor Peter Laurberg, Professor of Endocrinology at Aalborg University, Denmark shared his research on iodination of salt in Denmark and the improvements to iodine status from the Danish intervention.
EUThryroid: maternal iodine and offspring neurodevelopment

Dr Tim Korevaar, Research Fellow, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, gave an overview of the EUThyroid project, which is currently collecting data to from a series of European cohorts to measure iodine status in Europe and provide recommendations for the whole of Europe.

Professor Simon Smail, Vice Chair at Public Health Wales NHS Trust, discussed the political nature of public health and presented an overview of what Public Health Wales key priorities are to improve long-term health.

The Symposium was generously supported by: