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May 2012

Iodine is an essential mineral required for thyroid function.  Iodine deficiency is associated with goitre, as well as impaired mental and physical development.

The effects of severe iodine deficiency during critical periods of brain development are well documented.  Iodine deficiency results in a range of conditions collectively termed ‘iodine deficiency disorders’ including neurological cretinism.  During childhood, iodine deficiency can cause delayed bone maturation and reduction in intellectual quotient (IQ).  It can leads to permanent neurological damage if treatment is delayed.

Studies have found that there is a wide spread of iodine deficiency in Australia and New Zealand. To determine whether supplementing mildly iodine-deficient children with iodine improves cognition.  New Zealand researchers conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in 184 children aged 10–13 y in Dunedin, New Zealand.

Children were randomly assigned to receive a daily tablet containing either 150 mcg of iodine or placebo for 28 wk.  Biochemical, anthropometric, and dietary data were collected from each child at baseline and after 28 wk.  Cognitive performance was assessed through 4 subtests from the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children.

After 28 weeks, the study found that iodine supplementation improved iodine status in the supplemented group.  It also significantly improved scores for 2 of the 4 cognitive subtests and matrix reasoning.  The overall cognitive score of the iodine-supplemented group was higher than that of the placebo group.

Based on these findings, the study authors concluded that iodine supplementation improved perceptual reasoning in mildly iodine-deficient children, and raised the concern that mild iodine deficiency could prevent children from attaining their full intellectual potential.

Rosie C Gordon et al; Clin Nutr 2009; 90:1264–71.


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