Urinary iodine, thyroid function, and thyroglobulin as biomarkers of iodine status

Elizabeth N Pearce, Kathleen L Caldwell
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2016, 104 Suppl 3: 898S-901S
The accurate assessment of population iodine status is necessary to inform public health policies and clinical research on iodine nutrition, particularly the role of iodine adequacy in normal neurodevelopment. Urinary iodine concentration (UIC) directly reflects dietary iodine intake and is the most common indicator used worldwide to assess population iodine status. The CDC established the Ensuring the Quality of Iodine Procedures program in 2001 to provide laboratories that measure urinary iodine with an independent assessment of their analytic performance; this program fosters improvement in the assessment of UIC. Clinical laboratory tests of thyroid function (including serum concentrations of the pituitary hormone thyrotropin and the thyroid hormones thyroxine and triiodothyronine) are sometimes used as indicators of iodine status, although such use is often problematic. Even in severely iodine-deficient regions, there is a great deal of intraindividual variation in the ability of the thyroid to adapt. In most settings and in most population subgroups other than newborns, thyroid function tests are not considered sensitive indicators of population iodine status. However, the thyroid-derived protein thyroglobulin is increasingly being used for this purpose. Thyroglobulin can be measured in either serum or dried blood spot (DBS) samples. The use of DBS samples is advantageous in resource-poor regions. Improved methodologies for ascertaining maternal iodine status are needed to facilitate research on developmental correlates of iodine status. Thyroglobulin may prove to be a useful biomarker for both maternal and neonatal iodine status, but validated assay-specific reference ranges are needed for the determination of iodine sufficiency in both pregnant women and neonates, and trimester-specific ranges are possibly needed for pregnant women. UIC is currently a well-validated population biomarker, but individual biomarkers that could be used for research, patient care, and public health are lacking.

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