Widespread iodine deficiency reduces the intelligence of European children
Experts have long criticized that iodine supply in Europe is insufficient. This has dramatic consequences: According to researchers, up to 50 percent of newborns could be impaired in brain development due to iodine deficiency. The scientists are calling on politicians to act.
Expectant mothers should definitely avoid iodine deficiency
Pregnant women in particular should avoid iodine deficiency, medical experts have long warned. Even a slight iodine deficiency during pregnancy can lead to disturbed brain development in the child and thus to reduced intelligence. Conversely, a better IQ of the offspring can be achieved by administering iodine during pregnancy, as British researchers found. However, despite such findings, scientists fear that up to 50 percent of all newborns in Europe are impaired in brain development due to iodine deficiency, reports the University of Greifswald in a message.
Essential for the development of intelligence in children
Iodine deficiency is one of the most important risk factors for thyroid diseases (e.g. hypothyroidism) in children and adults.
In addition, the micronutrient iodine is essential for the development of intelligence in children and adolescents.
With the Kraków Declaration on Iodine (Kraków Declaration on Iodine), scientists from the EU-funded EUthyroid project and several interest groups are calling on decision-makers in Europe to take political measures to counter the widespread iodine deficiency.
Increased iodine requirement during pregnancy
European scientists from 27 countries recently presented their results on the current status of iodine deficiency diseases that have arisen within the EUthyroid project (project number: 634453) in Kraków (Poland).
Our drinking water and food supply the important micronutrient iodine, which is required for the production of thyroid hormones.
These messenger substances regulate the metabolism in the human body, promote the physical growth and intellectual development of children and adolescents.
During pregnancy, women have an increased iodine requirement, which is often not covered by their normal diet.
Scientists are concerned that even a slight iodine deficiency in the mother can impair the child's intelligence quotient (IQ).
Despite this essential role of iodine, most expectant mothers are unaware of the negative effects of iodine deficiency on their offspring.
Regular control of the iodine supply in the population is required
Experts warn that despite the existing voluntary iodine enrichment programs in many European countries, up to 50 percent of all newborns are exposed to a slight iodine deficiency.
As a result, there is a risk that these children will not be able to fully utilize their cognitive development potential and that they may experience learning problems at school, for example.
In addition, there is a risk that lower IQ values in parts of the population affect the economic performance of entire nations.
In addition to brain development, the multiple effects of iodine deficiency have a significant impact on public health systems.
While these effects are well known, policy makers, opinion leaders and the general public largely ignore iodine deficiency prevention programs in Europe.
Iodized foods are an established and cost-effective measure to counter iodine deficiency.
However, only around one in four households in Europe uses iodized salt, as experts reported.
For decades, the World Health Organization (WHO) has called for regular monitoring of iodine supply in the population as an important step in identifying and eliminating iodine deficiency in Europe.
However, only eight countries in the EU meet this minimal requirement.
Scientific results and fears are ignored
Scientists are increasingly concerned about the lack of commitment by policymakers to address iodine deficiency in Europe.
The consortium, together with various interest groups, is therefore calling on political decision-makers, health managers and scientists to implement the known effective strategies for preventing iodine deficiency diseases across Europe.
With the Kraków Declaration on Iodine, experts are joining forces to eliminate iodine deficiency. They demand:
• Uniform prevention measures: those responsible in industry and trade, as well as political decision-makers, should standardize salt iodization in order to guarantee free trade in iodine-enriched foods in Europe. Iodized animal feed should also receive regulatory approval to ensure free trade within the EU.
• Control of preventive measures: National governments and health authorities must carry out uniform monitoring and evaluation of iodination programs at regular intervals in order to ensure an optimal iodine supply for the population.
• Support for prevention measures: Scientists, together with representatives from the healthcare system, patient organizations, industry and the public, should support the necessary prevention measures. This is the only way to ensure that appropriate measures are taken in a rapidly changing society to effectively prevent iodine deficiency diseases. In addition, knowledge about iodine deficiency diseases should be passed on through suitable information campaigns.
The signatories to the Kraków Declaration on Iodine call on all players in Europe and around the world to pool resources and expertise in order to remedy iodine deficiency. (ad)