You want to set your children up for a lifetime of not only strong physical health, but mental as well. You want your children to succeed in school, and you may not realize that there are things that you can do during pregnancy to help ensure that. For example, researchers from the University of Tasmania in Australia found that children who did not receive enough iodine in the womb did worse on literacy tests when they were age 9 than those who got sufficient amounts.
Furthermore, even if children received plenty of iodine after birth, that still didn't seem to be enough.
"Our research found children may continue to experience the effects of insufficient iodine for years after birth," said the study's lead author, Kristen Hynes, Ph.D., of the Menzies Research Institute at the University of Tasmania in Australia. "Although the participants' diet was fortified with iodine during childhood, later supplementation was not enough to reverse the impact of the deficiency during the mother's pregnancy."
Iodine is key
To come to their conclusions, the researchers examined standardized test scores of more than 220 individuals whose mothers went to the Royal Hobart Hospital's antenatal clinics in Tasmania between 1999 and 2001. All of these kids were born during a time when there was an iodine deficiency problem among populations in this area. This problem was eradicated when bread manufacturers in the area began using iodized salt in their recipes.
The scientists discovered that not getting enough iodine can have lasting effects on children. The studied children who had insufficient levels of iodine during fetal development had lower scores on their literacy tests than those who did not have this problem. However, their math scores did not seem to be affected. The researchers hypothesized that iodine deficiency may affect the auditory pathways, which may impact their spelling ability more than their math skills.
"Fortunately, iodine deficiency during pregnancy and the resulting neurological impact is preventable," Hynes added. "Pregnant women should follow public health guidelines and take daily dietary supplements containing iodine."
Furthermore, the researcher recommended that there be public health supplementation programs that can help make sure that women get enough iodine.
Healthy sources of iodine
There are many easy ways for you to assure that you get sufficient amounts of iodine. For example, the National Institutes of Health states that the best source of iodine is seaweed, which can be added to a number of salads or found in many Japanese dishes. If seaweed is not something that you're interested in, there is a large amount of iodine in cod, yogurt, reduced-fat milk and even chocolate ice cream.
Furthermore, more than 70 countries, including the U.S. and Canada, have salt iodization programs. This has resulted in more than 90 percent of households in the U.S. using salt that contains iodine.
The NIH adds that it's extremely important for women to get sufficient amounts of iodine during pregnancy. Before the fetal thyroid gland is developed properly, the baby depends entirely on maternal iodine intake. Breast milk contains iodine, but how much depends on how much iodine a mother consumes.
You should talk to your doctor about how much iodine you should aim to consume during your pregnancy, and ask if he or she thinks that you should take supplements. There are also tests that you can take to help determine if you are getting enough iodine, so you may want to ask your doctor about that.
Did your doctor talk to you about iodine intake during pregnancy? What did you consume to make sure you got enough of this important nutrient? Comment on it here!