One billion IQ points and iodine

Preventing iodine deficiency can help improve the quality of life for women and their families by increasing intelligence in addition to helping general health and possibly helping to reduce risk of some types of cancer. [Cancer and iodine] Iodized salt and use of iodine supplements for young women of child bearing age are two solutions discussed in the book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide (2009). Severe iodine deficiency prenatally can cause mental retardation in the infant but moderate iodine deficiency has been found to reduce intelligence by an ten to fifteen IQ points. Improving access to iodized salt and iodine supplements for women around the world could add to the intelligence of the next generation of our world’s supply of inventors and business builders.

“Worldwide, iodine deficiency alone reduces humanity’s collective IQ by more than 1 billion points. According to one estimate, just $19 million would pay for salt iodization in poor countries that need it.”

– Half the Sky, (2009), p 172.

The volunteer organizations Kiwani’s International and UNICEF have helped provide iodine fortification around the world. [1] Salt iodization has met with community resistance in some areas possibly due to negative rumors that became associated with the programs. [2, 3]

Iodine deficiency can be common problem for people in developed nations too. Prenatal nutrition is important for everyone.

A study on the iodine levels of prenatal women in Australia found mild deficiency to be a problem for many of the women, “48.4% of the Caucasian women, 38.4% of the Vietnamese women and 40.8% of the Indian/Sri Lankan (ISL) women.” Follow-up research examining possible dietary differences between the groups was recommended in the article abstract. [4] Seafood and seaweed can be naturally good sources of iodine.

Talking about IQ as group averages may bother some people. A different way to consider it as individual infants. Mild iodine deficiency prenatally might leave the infant who had a potential of 115 IQ with 100-105; the infant with a potential of 100 with 85-90; the infant with a potential of 80 with 65-70; and the infant with a potential of 140 with 125-130.

Improving prenatal nutrition is good for each individual’s potential and their potential intelligence boost might not just be in IQ but also might include an improvement in social skills and emotional skills, maybe even physical skills. We don’t have national and international testing in place for assessing social and emotional skills, so we don’t know what we don’t know, do we? Good thing we can find out —-> more research is needed about the possible other benefits but there is no question about the benefits of preventing mild or severe iodine deficiency during pregnancy with increased cognitive skills on average.

Research comparing the iodine levels of women between their own pregnancies and then following the differences in IQ between siblings might be another way to show a connection between iodine deficiency prenatally and cognitive skills.* A difference has been found between sibling’s IQ in a large study (n=241,310), first born children scored about 3% higher than second born and 4% higher than third born. The difference was an average and was not observed in every family. [5] Iodine levels were not mentioned. Congenital hypothyroidism is more common for infants of multiple pregnancies, such as twins and triplets and for infants born to older women than younger:

In addition, New York found the incidence nearly double in twin births (1:876) as compared to singletons (1:1765), and even higher with multiple births (1:575). Older mothers (> 39 years) had a higher incidence (1:1,328) compared to younger mothers (< 20 years, 1:1,703). [6]

*A research study that provided extra iodine supplementation for mothers expecting twins or multiples and older mothers and then tracked iodine levels for the mothers and IQ levels for the children might be more ethical based on the known risks of congenital hypothyroidism and the benefits of improved IQ on average then the idea to track a woman’s iodine levels over progressive pregnancies and then measure the IQs of the siblings. It would be more ethical to provide iodine supplementation if levels were found deficient and later see if the siblings IQ levels were statistically similar.

Women all over the world in all economic brackets may not be getting as much iodine as their bodies need. The thyroid is well known as needing iodine and it has priority within the body for uptake of the mineral but the ovaries [7] and the mammary glands [8] need iodine too. Iodine is important in endocrine glands throughout the body in men as well as women.

Getting everyone off to a good start prenatally is just a good start to the rest of the life. Iodine intake is important at all stages of the lifespan.

/Disclosure: This information is provided for educational purposes  within the guidelines of fair use and is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./

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