Iodine in Pregnancy and Mental Ability of Children

May 13, 2013

Iodine in Pregnancy and Mental Ability of Children 

 Reference:  Hynes, JCEM May 2013 

 Ok, does anyone you know want their children to have a top-notch IQ after being born?  Of course!   Our dream for our kids is that they all will get PhDs by age 5 and know at least 6 different languages before high school is out.  Well, we have found a new risk factor that is easily adjusted but up till now not known. Iodine.  It’s that trace element that’s added to salt because we don’t have enough.  

 The World Health Organization cites iodine deficiency as the number one nutritional deficiency resulting in mental retardation in children.  In the early 1900s as many as 50% of Milwaukee women had goiters from iodine deficiency.   That was all fixed with the addition of iodine to salt by Mr. Morton.  It is well known that severe iodine deficiency is a big problem.   

Well, if severe deficiency is a big problem, how big a problem is mild deficiency?   And how many of us are mildly low?  How common is this problem?   This is what Hynes set out to find out at the University of Tasmania.  She followed 212 Australian women at the University of Tasmania hospitals from 1999 to 2001 and checked their urinary iodine. That is a pretty good method of assessing their iodine adequacy.    Urinary iodines below 150 are considered to be a bit low.   Not horribly low.  Just a little.   Much like you and me. 

 What did they find?  Nine years later the children born subsequently whose mothers had low iodine while pregnant had spelling scores on the Australian spelling standardized test of 371 compared to 412 in the otherwise average Australian child.  And on grammar their scores were 377 compared to 408.  On global literacy scores, they were about 6% lower.  All of these were statistically significant.  That means low iodine during pregnancy is correlated with poor performance on cognitive testing 9 years later that is not enhanced by iodine given later in life.  

The ship has sailed and it’s now too late to fix it.   Iodine is needed during pregnancy, critically. Where do we get iodine from?  In America, most of it comes from milk where we get about 56 mcg in a cup.  Baked cod has 99 mcg in a serving.  If we ate more iodized salt, we would get some from there too.  Wisconsin and Midwest soils don’t have much iodine in them.  Milwaukee is the center of the “goiter belt” from the early 1900s when as many as 50% of women had some enlargement of their thyroid.  We added iodine to salt 100 years ago but now everyone is crazed with sea salt which has virtually no iodine.  (Despite the marketing, Himalayan salt and all those gourmet salts have very little mineral content. They just taste better because you get big chunks of salt bursts, and we all love salt on our tongues.) 

 But focus on the core message.  Our iodine access in the Midwest is very limited.  Many of us are marginally deficient.  Being deficient during pregnancy is a big, big problem.  It should be added to our list of pregnancy nutrients for an optimal baby.  The cost of low iodine in pregnancy is a lifetime of mental insufficiency.   Not acceptable. 

 WWW. What will work for me?  That’s easy.  I’m testing iodine left and right and finding folks with low iodine.  I personally take it at 1 mg a day, which is what I think everyone should be at.  It’s not hard to test for, just a bit of urine on blotter paper morning and evening and in 10 days you have an answer.   And if you know any woman who is pregnant, give her this email, today. 

Pop Quiz 

 1.   Iodine is a salt that we get mostly from milk,  T or F                         Answer:  True.   And iodized salt. (Little quirk of iodized salt:  the iodine "evaporates" over time.   An old box of salt has lost much of its iodine.) . 

 2.   Our brains need iodine while our mothers still have us prior to delivery in order to have a normal IQ?   T or F                       Answer:  That's it in a nutshell 

 3.  We are deficient in iodine in the midwest because there is little iodine in our soils?    T or F Answer:  True 

 4.  We get more iodine from Himalayan salt and sea salt?  T or F                     Answer: False.  It's all advertising 

 5.   WHO has identified Iodine as the number one cause of severe mental retardation in the world.  T or F                       Answer:  True.  So, if severe deficiency makes for severe retardation, this study shows mild deficiency makes for mild retardation.  Which do you want? 

 6.  Iodine is toxic.  T or F                 Answer:   Horse cookies!   No evidence of toxicity unless you have known thyroid disease.   The American Society of Endocrinology says 1 mg is safe forever.  The RDA of 150 goes to 220 while pregnant.  (As a bit of historical trivia: Svent-Gyorgi, the Nobel Laureate for Vitamin C took 1 gram of iodine a day.  He considered that the reason he lived into his 90s working at Wood's Hole Maritime Institute in Maine.)Maybe a little more would be prudent! See this email on YouTube:

The column written by Dr. John E Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI