Did you know that iodine is an important part of a healthy pregnancy? A recent post by the World Health Organisation about iodine intakes while pregnant spurred us to write a blog post. Here we will outline five important questions, and their answers, regarding iodine intake during pregnancy.
1. Why is iodine important?
Iodine is an essential mineral and a vital component of hormones produced by the thyroid gland, that are responsible for a number of important functions in your body. These include growth, metabolism, reproduction, nerve and muscle function, regulation of body temperature and blood cell production.
During pregnancy, iodine is essential for foetal brain development. The developing foetus is dependent on the mother's supply of thyroid hormones, which are to develop a healthy brain. The availability of these hormones is dependant on an adequate supply of iodine in the diet of the pregnant mother.
2. What is iodine deficiency?
Dietary iodine deficiency represents the single greatest form of preventable brain damage and diminished IQ worldwide - the children of iodine-deficient mothers are at risk of not reaching their full intellectual potential.
Severe iodine deficiency can result in 'cretinism', a disorder where both mental and physical development is severely impaired. Mild iodine deficiency has also been shown to have negative effects on the child's development, with a UK study finding that, at age 9, children born to mothers who had low iodine intakes while pregnant, performed worse in tests of spelling, grammar, and general literacy.
3. How common is iodine deficiency?
The research shows that dietary intake of iodine by Irish women is significantly less than the level recommended by the World Health Organisation. This is a greater problem in the summer months when available iodine in food sources such as dairy milk is at its lowest level. A study conducted in Ireland by the UCD School of Food and Health found that 77% of women of childbearing age (18-50 years) did not meet the recommendations set for pregnant women (1). This problem is not unique to Ireland, with a European study, published by Zimmermann et al in 2015, finding that two-thirds of European countries had inadequate iodine intakes for pregnant women.
4. What are the recommendations?
Recommendations for iodine for women of childbearing age increase from 150ug to 250ug while pregnant or lactating.
5. Where can I get it?
The main source of iodine in the Irish diet is milk, contributing 45% to total intakes, with this UCD paper suggesting that any changes to current dairy intakes and practices could have a knock-on effect in regards to iodine intakes. As more and more people turn to non-dairy alternatives, such as almond or soya milk, there is rising concern over where the public will get their iodine from.
Thankfully, we here at This Is Seaweed Ltd. have the answer!
Seaweed is naturally high in iodine, with just 1g of Alaria Flakes contains enough iodine to reach recommendations, even during pregnancy! Kelp and Dulse have higher concentrations of iodine, which could have some negative effects if consumed regularly. To counteract this, you could boil the seaweed as a way of reducing its iodine content. If you boil Kelp in water for 15 minutes, it can lose up to 99% of its initial iodine levels. Good news, because Kelp is a real iodine bomb: 1g of raw Kelp contains 1,800mcg - 2,500mcg of iodine, which is above the daily recommended intake. So don't use the delicious sea-vegetable straight from the package! Instead, we suggest adding kelp into your dish while it is boiling, to reduce the iodine content.
In any case, if you have thyroid issues, you should check with your physician before adding more iodine to your diet.
To find out more about our range of seaweeds, check out our online store.