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Iodine deficiency: Britain’s hidden nutrition crisis

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Foods such as fish and dairy products are rich in iodine, with seaweed being a particularly concentrated source

The negative health effects of iodine deficiency on health and human development are well documented.1,2,

The effects of mild to moderate deficiency, however, are less well known. Recent research has revealed that some UK populations are now mild to moderately iodine deficient3,4,5,6 and that this level of deficiency may come with risks to child cognitive development.7

This article looks at the importance of iodine sufficiency, particularly for pregnant women. It goes through the importance of iodine to our health, the effects of iodine deficiency and the more recent findings that the UK population is at risk of mild to moderate iodine deficiency with subsequent risks to foetal development.

What is iodine?

Iodine is a mineral, essential to human life. It is found in small amounts in the thyroid gland, and helps make thyroid hormones (thyroxine, T4 and triiodothyroxine, T3), which regulate growth and metabolism.8,9 In foetal life, thyroid hormones are required to ensure the development and growth of organs, particularly development of a baby’s brain before birth and during the critical period of the first two to three years.9

Iodine Cycle

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Thank you writing such an informative article. I have been suffering some health problems which the NHS have left undiagnosed. Various medications they prescribed me have made me feel more unwell, and as I have always listened to my body, I knew my body was not happy with these prescriptions. They seemed to be masking my symptoms rather than tackling them, and also causing extra symptoms. No one from the NHS have enquired about my diet! I turned vegan 18 months ago. I used to consume more than a pint of milk a day and eat cheese every day and lots of seafood, prior to turning vegan. I was also a big fish eater. I turned vegan for environmental and animal farming reasons. Although I admit I still crave cheese, I am now intolerant to it and have to take antihistamines to control spots that occur when I eat cheese and other dairy products. After researching into iodine deficiency, symptoms etc, I have found I have every single symptom on the list, including those of under active thyroid symptoms. This isn’t a case of reading the symptoms and being a hypochondriac about it, these are symptoms I have complained about to my GP over time and are legitimately logged on my medical records prior to researching this subject. I feel totally let down by the NHS not recognising this, and instead causing new problems with medication that wouldn’t be needed if they had advised me to take an iodine supplement!
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