Iodine Status and Prevalence of Thyroid Disorders After Introduction of Mandatory Universal Salt Iodization for 16 Years in China: A Cross-Sectional Study in 10 Cities

Zhongyan Shan, Lulu Chen, Xiaolan Lian, Chao Liu, Bingyin Shi, Lixin Shi, Nanwei Tong, Shu Wang, Jianping Weng, Jiajun Zhao, Xiaochun Teng, Xiaohui Yu, Yaxin Lai, Weiwei Wang, Chenyan Li, Jinyuan Mao, Yongze Li, Chenling Fan, Weiping Teng
Thyroid: Official Journal of the American Thyroid Association 2016, 26 (8): 1125-30

BACKGROUND: The goal of eliminating iodine deficiency worldwide was successfully achieved in China after the implementation of a mandatory universal salt iodization program for the last 16 years. Thus, China has been assessed as a country with more than adequate iodine levels. This survey aimed to investigate the current iodine status in China and the effects of an increased iodine intake on the spectrum and prevalence of thyroid disorders.

METHODS: A total of 15,008 adult subjects from 10 cities in eastern and central China were investigated. Serum thyrotropin (TSH), thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPOAb), thyroglobulin antibodies (TgAb), and urine iodine concentration (UIC) were measured, and an ultrasonography of the thyroid was performed in all subjects. Free thyroxine (fT4) and free triiodothyronine (fT3) levels were only measured if the serum TSH was outside the normal range.

RESULTS: The median UIC values were 197 μg/L in school-age children (SAC) and 205 μg/L in a cohort population. Six cities were classified as regions with adequate iodine intake (AII), and four cities as regions with more than adequate iodine intake (MTAII), according to median SAC UIC. The prevalence of clinical hypothyroidism, subclinical hypothyroidism, and positive thyroid antibodies was significantly higher in MTAII cities than it was in AII cities. Moreover, the prevalence of clinical hyperthyroidism (1.1% vs. 0.8%, p = 0.033) and Graves' disease (0.8% vs. 0.5%, p = 0.019) also significantly increased in MTAII cities. Compared with a five-year prospective study conducted in 1999, the prevalence of goiter significantly decreased (2.9% vs. 5.02%, p = 0.001), but there was a significant increase in thyroid nodules (12.8% vs. 2.78%, p = 0.001). The prevalence of subclinical hypothyroidism (16.7% vs. 3.22%), positive TPOAb (11.5% vs. 9.81%), and positive TgAb (12.6% vs. 9.09%) significantly increased, while no changes were seen in clinical hyperthyroidism, subclinical hyperthyroidism, or Graves' disease.

CONCLUSION: The goal of eliminating iodine deficiency has been successfully achieved in China. However, the prevalence and spectrum of thyroid disorders has increased, reflecting possible adverse effects of increased iodine intake.

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