Infants have borderline low iodine intake
Salt iodisation means that populations in an increasing number of countries – among them Switzerland – are consuming enough iodine, according to a study.
As a result, goitre (swelling of the neck) and mental retardation due to iodine deficiency is not a general worldwide public health problem anymore. That said, Swiss infants and lactating women were found to have borderline low intakes.
Researchers at the Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ) evaluated iodine data from 148 countries and compared them with investigations done by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2003 and 2007.
They found that between 2003 and 2011 the number of countries with iodine deficiency decreased from 54 to 32.
Despite this progress, the results published on Thursday show that every third school child worldwide still has an insufficient iodine intake, particularly in Southeast Asia and Africa. In these regions 76 million and 58 million children respectively get too little iodine from their diets.
Iodine naturally occurs in sea water and in the soil. Sea fish and algae are thus rich sources of iodine. Other important food sources are bread and milk.
In 1918, a Swiss physician showed that consumption of salt with added iodine was effective in reducing goitre. At the time, three out of four people had goitre in some of the mountain villages.
Switzerland started to add iodine to salt in 1922 and the iodine level was gradually increased over the years. The level of iodine in Swiss iodised table salt is currently 20 milligrams per kilogram.
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