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Iodine deficiency and the link to baby IQ: tell us what you want to know!

(51 Posts)
HelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 22-May-13 09:44:30

Hello. It's all over the news today that a Lancet study is suggesting that mild iodine deficiency during pregnancy could be dimming the intellect of some babies born in the UK.

We realise this might be a bit worrying to anyone who's pregnant - and we'd like to whip together a helpful content page of info and advice.

To help us make it as useful as possible, we'd love to hear from you, too. Please tell us what questions you have about all this - anything from why it's a concern to what changes you might need to make to your diet in pregnancy - and we'll make sure you get the answers on the page we build.

Oh, and just to add the obvious rider: if you do have any concerns about the amount of iodine in your diet, you should consult your GP.

That article really isn't clear as to what specific foods two-thirds of pregnant women might be neglecting to eat. If they are implying we don't eat enough fish, how are we meant to balance that against being told to either limit or completely avoid several types of fish? hmm

Do the Omega-3 fish oil pills included with one of the more expensive prego vitamin brands contain any iodine?

Does iodine intake in one trimester matter more than another?

JeanBillie Wed 22-May-13 10:11:43

I am pregnant with my second child, and have never heard anything about iodine - from healthcare professionals or other mums. I generally educate myself about this kind of thing so am a bit mortified!

So I'd like content on all the basics please - how much we need, which foods provide it, and why it's important.

kd83 Wed 22-May-13 10:18:58

From the BBC coverage it seems cows milk is the best dietary source of iodine, which is fine for someone like me who has milk daily on cereal and in tea but what about people who don'? echoing questions above what are the other good sources and should a fish oil supplement be taken?

Also, what happens if you have too much iodine? if you get it in milk like I probably do but take a supplement with it in for some other reason, are you getting too much and could this be damaging?

Our parents generation never had this much to worry about during pregnancy and we seemed to turn out ok!

Crumblemum Wed 22-May-13 10:19:32

Do you know if Iodine are included in most pregnancy vitamins? That would be good to know.

I'd like to know if it's too late for me to do anything about this in the third trimester. I don't drink/eat milk products, rarely eat fish and don't take any supplements, so presumably I'm 'high risk'.

alienbanana Wed 22-May-13 11:12:04

Yes, my main question is - where do you get iodine? I don't drink milk and don't eat shellfish - so should I be taking supplements?

bigkidsdidit Wed 22-May-13 11:18:59

I just checked my (superdrug) pregnancy vitamins and they contain iodine. I have a yogurt and a glass of milk every day as well as 3 cups of tea so hopefully am ok.

The article did say, though, that 67% of women were found to be deficient. Which makes me think that it is not so much that we are deficient and therefore harming our children's chances, more that supplementing a bit (to an unnatural level) might be advantageous, in the same way we do with folic acid.

If 67% of women are deficient I don't think anyone should beat themselves up - it's obviously not something that we get enough of in a british diet!

bigkidsdidit Wed 22-May-13 11:20:30

btw the guardian article said white fish is best not oily. I eat tuna and salmon often but really can't remember the last time I had white fish!

HelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 22-May-13 11:21:19

Hello again - and thanks for all of these.

We've got an info page on iodine up on the site now.

Please do have a read and let us know if you find it helpful. And, if you have any further Qs, please do say.

We should add that, if you have any doubts about the amount of iodine you're getting in your diet, you should consult your GP.

iclaudius Wed 22-May-13 11:22:01

My friend told me ages ago to use iodised salt . Salt is great for encouraging absorption of iodine ( I think )
Waitrose sell it

piprabbit Wed 22-May-13 11:27:55

3 IQ points - that's all we're talking about according to the item on the BBC today.

alienbanana Wed 22-May-13 11:34:21

iodised salt - brilliant. smile

FoofFighter Wed 22-May-13 11:46:49

Is this not rather a storm in a teacup over a mere 3 points?

Yet another thing to worry some pregnant women about, on top of yesterdays co-sleeping news.

FoofFighter Wed 22-May-13 11:47:36

especially when there are so many other variables that could affect a child's IQ??

DrSeuss Wed 22-May-13 11:56:05

Can someone who knows about such things please clarify- what does three points actually mean in real terms? I suspect it's a tiny difference. If we were talking about children having real problems learning that would be an issue.

rumtumtugger Wed 22-May-13 12:23:31

it's in pregnacare tablets - 140ug which is 93% of RDI.

SuffolkNWhat Wed 22-May-13 13:25:03

I am lactose intolerant and fish is supposed to be limited in pregnancy, where is the best place for me to get the required amount of iodine.

pippitysqueakity Wed 22-May-13 14:47:53

Also be careful if you have a thyroid issue, iodine not helpful with that.

HumphreyCobbler Wed 22-May-13 15:34:23

I used Iodised salt and have done since I read an article about this in the paper before I conceived my first child.

I am glad about this as I drink organic milk and that has half the amount of iodine, apparently. Something to do with cows eating clover?

badguider Wed 22-May-13 15:47:38

Pregnancy and fish:
Pregnant women should limit oily fish to 2 portions a week and canned tuna t 4 cans.... you can have as much of other white fish (cod, haddock etc) as you like so that shouldn't stop you getting your iodine from fish.

badguider Wed 22-May-13 15:49:01

sorry, white fish except swordfish and marlin..

SolomanDaisy Wed 22-May-13 16:23:51

DrSeuss - there's not a simple answer to that. One person's IQ might vary 3 points from day to day. If it was absolutely accurate, it might mean the child ranked 15th in a class of 30 moved to being 12/13th if their IQ increased 3 points. At precisely the right point in the scale it might make the difference between being able to read and not. At above IQ 140, 3 points difference wouldn't be accurately measurable. So it might mean a massive difference or none at all, depending on the individual child and how accurate you think the testing is.

OneLittleToddleTerror Wed 22-May-13 17:05:15

I remember reading it a while back how iodine is deficient in the British diet. For example, in NZ (and I think in Oz too), iodine is added to the salt and bread. But we also have floride in our drinking water. Maybe it's a british thing to not trust supplements added to our food and water?

OneLittleToddleTerror Wed 22-May-13 17:07:22

iclaudis is the iodised salt you mentioned by Cerebos? I think I might buy that next time.

Smerlin Wed 22-May-13 17:45:52

This is the fact sheet put up by the British Dietetic Assoc to advise everyone on this...

ilikemysleep Wed 22-May-13 18:11:13

If that report on the BBC is to be believed, we are looking at a 3 point difference in IQ for children of parents who were iodine deficient in 1st trimester. A 3 point IQ difference is really not anything to get overexcited about, it would only make any perceptible difference at the very low end - like if your child would have had an IQ of 70 and instead it's 67. Even then, it's not going to make a massive difference. The difference between an IQ of 88 or one of 85, or one of 100 and one of 97, or even (esecially)one of 120 and one of 117 is really, really not worth getting in a flap over. It looks like it's only really a massive issue if you are severely deficient in which case it case cause low IQ (as opposed to 'marginally lowered' IQ) so unless you aren't accessing any sources of iodine at all I wouldn't panic.

bigkidsdidit Wed 22-May-13 19:18:19

terror we have fluoride in the water here too (well, in England, not in Scotland I don't think). And we have b vitamins in bread. So perhaps iodine will be next in the bread.

This data set is from the early 90s; were pregnancy vitamins routinely taken then?

LeBFG Wed 22-May-13 19:26:17

I remember thinking about iodine during pregnancy. I can't remember why now though. I use grey sea salt which has iodine and regularly sprinkle dried seaweed (look in the health food shops) into foods for the same reason. I also vaguely thought mussles would be good for iodine and ate those too.

Gemd81 Wed 22-May-13 19:30:28

I did a diploma in anatomy and physiology for a reflexology qualification and learnt that a pregnant mother with an underactive thyroid if not given iodine supplements can have a baby with cretinism they discovered this and it is now routinely treated. This is where the phrase 'you cretin' comes from in the olden days.

KatrineEM Wed 22-May-13 19:31:27

Seaweed is an excellent source (the best?) of iodine.

Gemd81 Wed 22-May-13 19:33:48

So my point is unless you have an under active thyroid don't worry it's all a nothing article - must be a slow news day!

alienbanana Wed 22-May-13 19:59:31

The article says to avoid seaweed.

ArthurPewty Wed 22-May-13 20:12:29

Thyroid deficiency is definitely linked to baby's IQ.

Thyroxine and Liothyronine are made up of iodine (and other bits).

This is well known already.

blueamber Wed 22-May-13 20:23:26

I'd like to know what the link is - is it purely iodine deficiency that affects intelligence, or is it that iodine deficiency lowers thyroid hormone levels, which is known to affect intelligence?

iclaudius Wed 22-May-13 20:43:30

Onelittletoddlererror yes it is - tastes good I'm so pleased I took my friends advice -75 pence Waitrose or Ocado

lurcherlover Wed 22-May-13 21:34:53

I always used to buy Cerebros salt for the iodine, but tesco have stopped selling it and I don't live near a Waitrose...anyone found anywhere else that sells it?

PicardyThird Wed 22-May-13 21:58:25

The pregnancy folic acid tablets you get here in Germany have iodine in. I've just googled the brand I was taking back when I had the dc and the website talks about iodine being important for the mother's and baby's thyroid (but nothing about IQ).

chocolatemartini Wed 22-May-13 22:04:46

The pregnacare and solgar pregnancy vitamins have iodine in. Sanatogen don't.

PipkinsPal Wed 22-May-13 23:22:42

There is iodine in laverbread. Loads of it available in Swansea/Gower. Unfortunately it appears that not every pregnant mother ate it grin

cafecito Thu 23-May-13 00:07:41

surely this is linked to T3/T4 (thyroid hormone) synthesis? a vast number of people are hypothyroid anyway (and a further number are affected post partum/linked to pregnancy) - it seems just an abstract variable to add onto this underdiagnosed national health problem to further stress out pregnant mothers

LClogs Thu 23-May-13 09:26:01

I've just come across this thread and it really emphasizes how eating advice changes.

My DD is nearly 14 and my DS is 11. During both pregnancies I had a craving for tinned salmon and ate one tin every day for many weeks, wonder what my body wanted? Happily there was no advice against eating oily fish at that time (that I knew about) so no guilt. My mum drank stout regularly while pregnant as it was advised as a source of iron in the 1960's. I'm fine and my children are fine despite these food sins.

I think moderation in all things, it's worrying enough being pregnant without adding anxiety.

OneLittleToddleTerror Thu 23-May-13 10:38:56

bigkidsdidit I'm in Hampshire and there is no fluoride in water here. There was a public health debate a while back about adding fluoride to our water. It brought out scaremongering folks with pictures of kiwis with teeth damaged by flouride. Honestly I despaired. It's not normal at all to see a kiwi with teeth like that! But it has been wheeled out like it is the norm. Interesting that other parts of England has florinated water and non of the scare press says anything about it.

bigkidsdidit Thu 23-May-13 10:49:28

you're right, I'd thought it was nationwide but it turns out it is added to water only where natural levels are low.

If you google fluoride water UK you can see a map smile

RealityQuake Thu 23-May-13 11:23:41

The World Health Organization has been recommending that we iodize our salt for ages, but the Department of Health has been ignoring them because "British people drink enough milk for it not to be a problem" (exact quote I received from the previous Health Secretary when this was brought up again a year or so ago). It's very frustrating that this keeps getting in the news and the easiest way to handle it, that so many other countries do, is being ignored.

OneLittleToddleTerror Thu 23-May-13 11:41:26

reality that's where the iodine fortified bread in NZ came from, the salt. Because people are eating less salt nowadays, the govt increased made it a requirement for bread sold to also use iodised salt.

healthfreakanna Thu 23-May-13 19:55:58

Table salt only accounts for 10-15% of our salt intake, most of our salt comes from processed foods - in which the salt used is not in our control. So changing to using iodized table salt at home won't radically increase your iodine intake, just marginally.


Iodine deficiencies occur because iodine is not evenly distributed in the earth's crust.

It appears that normal requirements (150mcg) are possible within our usual diets, however the extra requirements in pregnancy (250mcg) maybe more than a typical UK diet can provide, unless we binge on baked cod! So supplementing may be advantageous.

lljkk Thu 23-May-13 20:12:37

mild iodine deficiency during pregnancy could be dimming the intellect of some babies born in the UK.

I hate this news story, feel so stuffed, there is nothing I can do about it now. Don't eat much seafood and I became lactose intolerant in all my pregnancies, although I ate a huge amount of tuna with DD (in spite of mercury warnings). I would take supplements or choke down oily fish if I knew today.

OneLittleToddleTerror Fri 24-May-13 09:18:59

lljkk if you have taken pregnancy multivitamins like pregnacare, you'd be ok. I'm surprised at the figure quoted in the studies though. Is it really true half of pregnant women didn't take pregnancy vitamins in the early 90s?

lljkk Fri 24-May-13 12:20:57

Mostly didn't take pregnacare, took Floradix for iron instead because it didn't upset my digestion unlike the standard iron pills. Really think specific supplements would have been the only way to go for me.

amazingmumof6 Sat 15-Jun-13 13:52:12

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