Taking iodine supplements whilst pregnant may be a cost effective from a long term health perspective, researchers from the University of Birmingham have found.
Previous studies have shown that even a mild lack of iodine can affect the intellectual development of children, measured by intelligence quotient (IQ) scores. Neurological disorders can also occur if the mother is severely deficient.
The research team analysed the data from many different studies looking at IQ scores and income. It took into account the costs that result from iodine deficiency, such as education and healthcare, and compared these with the required investment for iodine supplements. The conclusion was that providing supplements would lead to an increase of 1.22 IQ points per child and £3,297 of lifetime earnings, and a saving to society of £4,476 per pregnant woman.
Iodine in Pregnancy
The recommended daily amount of iodine for adults is 150mcg. During pregnancy, it is 250mcg (the same for breastfeeding women). Because it is important for mental development of the unborn baby, it’s a good idea to start taking supplements or ensuring there is enough iodine in the diet before becoming pregnant.
Foods rich in iodine include seafood (white fish, oily fish, shellfish) and dairy (milk, yoghurt). Seaweed is especially rich in it, but because of the high content may contain too much. It is recommended that pregnant women not eat more seaweed more than once a week.
Pregnant women who are concerned about their iodine levels should consult their doctor before taking supplements, as the amount in them may vary and can lead to over consumption. Those thyroid problems should make sure that they speak to their doctor before making any changes to their iodine intake.
This fact sheet from the Association of British Dietitians contains more information about iodine in pregnancy.