Transcript: Pregnant Vegans at Risk for Iodine Deficiency
The mineral iodine is important for thyroid function, but critical during pregnancy for fetal neurologic development. Even a mild deficiency can impair cognitive ability.
The derogatory word cretin was originally a medical term describing those with stunted physical and mental development due to an untreated congenital iodine deficiency. It remains one of the most common preventable causes of brain damage worldwide, because of iodine-deficient soil, which is why most table salt is iodized.
“Iodine can also be found in dairy products due to iodine supplementation of cattle feed,” and because it may leach into the milk from the use of iodine-containing disinfectants to wash the udders, dip the teats, and clean the milk tanks out with. Dipping the teats in iodine can decrease the bacteria concentration, but in cows with staph mastitis can actually increase the pus content in milk by as much as 60%. Regardless: “The iodine content of dairy products contributed by sanitizing products is usually not regulated and is a nondeliberate source of iodine.” But it is a source of iodine nonetheless.
These considerations therefore “raise concerns about the iodine status of pregnant women and women of reproductive age who are not consuming dairy products.” So, last year they concluded: “Iodine levels among U.S. women should be monitored, particularly among subgroups at risk.” Good idea, so this year they did it: “Iodine Status and Thyroid Function of Boston-Area Vegetarians and Vegans.” How did they do?
One way to measure iodine status is with a urine test. The World Health Organization recommends we should average 100 micrograms in our daily urine, unless we’re pregnant—in which case, we’d really like to see it up around 150. This is where vegetarians came out; not bad; conclusion: “U.S. vegetarians are iodine sufficient.”
What about vegans? 78.5. That’s not good. “U.S. vegans may [therefore] be at risk for iodine intake.” Therefore: “Vegan women of child-bearing age should supplement with 150 micrograms of iodine daily.”
The best new resource for those planning a plant-based pregnancy is probably Vegan for Life by Norris and Messina, out July 2011.
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Dianne Moore.
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