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Global iodine nutrition: Where do we stand in 2013?

BACKGROUND: Dietary iodine intake is required for the production of thyroid hormone. Consequences of iodine deficiency include goiter, intellectual impairments, growth retardation, neonatal hypothyroidism, and increased pregnancy loss and infant mortality.

SUMMARY: In 1990, the United Nations World Summit for Children established the goal of eliminating iodine deficiency worldwide. Considerable progress has since been achieved, largely through programs of universal salt iodization. Approximately 70% of all households worldwide currently have access to adequately iodized salt. In 2013, as defined by a national or subnational median urinary iodine concentration of 100-299 μg/L in school-aged children, 111 countries have sufficient iodine intake. Thirty countries remain iodine-deficient; 9 are moderately deficient, 21 are mildly deficient, and none are currently considered severely iodine-deficient. Ten countries have excessive iodine intake. In North America, both the United States and Canada are generally iodine-sufficient, although recent data suggest pregnant U.S. women are mildly iodine-deficient. Emerging issues include discrepancies between urinary iodine status in pregnant women compared to school-aged children in some populations, the problem of re-emerging iodine deficiency in parts of the developed world, the importance of food industry use of iodized salt, regions of iodine excess, and the potential effects of initiatives to lower population sodium consumption on iodine intake.

CONCLUSIONS: Although substantial progress has been made over the last several decades, iodine deficiency remains a significant health problem worldwide and affects both industrialized and developing nations. The ongoing monitoring of population iodine status remains crucially important, and particular attention may need to be paid to monitoring the status of vulnerable populations, such as pregnant women and infants. There is also need for ongoing monitoring of iodized salt and other dietary iodine sources in order to prevent excess as well as insufficient iodine nutrition. Finally, it will be essential to coordinate interventions designed to reduce population sodium intake with salt iodization programs in order to maintain adequate levels of iodine nutrition as salt intake declines.

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