Iodine supplementation during pregnancy will help babies, economies

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Addressing iodine deficiency through supplementation could be one of the best ways to save costs for health care system and economy but will also prove to be beneficial for both mother and their babies, researchers have suggested.

According to a newly published research in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal, pregnant women should be given iodine supplements – even in countries which are known to be mildly iodine deficient countries like the UK.

Researchers have revealed through their modelling study that as many as 1.9 billion people and 41 million school-age children (aged 6-12 years) living in 32 iodine-deficient countries and if iodine supplements are provided to pregnant women, the benefits would be global.

To examine the cost-effectiveness of iodine supplementation versus no supplementation for pregnant women in the UK, researchers used data from a systematic review of published studies and expert opinion and modelled both the direct health service savings and monetary benefits to society (lifetime earnings) in terms of gains from an additional IQ point in the children.

In the UK alone, the study notes, introduction of iodine supplementation during pregnancy in the UK could help NHS save around £199 per expectant mother and provide monetary benefits to society of around £4476 per child from increased lifetime earnings and lower public sector costs.

According to the authors, “As food fortification alone may not be enough to achieve iodine sufficiency for pregnant women, our results strengthen the case for universal iodine supplementation of all women before and during pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding in mild-to-moderate iodine deficient countries.”

Kate Jolly, a co-author and Professor of Public Health at the University of Birmingham in the UK explains that one of the main reasons behind children with lower IQ is iodine deficiency during pregnancy. Researchers say that pregnant women living in iodine deficient countries should start taking daily supplements and the same is advised for women who are breastfeeding, or planning a pregnancy.

Our body doesn’t naturally produce iodine and some of the sources include dairy and seafood or iodine supplements. Severe iodine deficiency during pregnancy can cause substantial mental impairment and delayed development in children, resulting in a lower IQ and consequently lower educational attainment and earning potential.