Excessive Maternal Iodine Supplementation Linked to Congenital Hypothyroidism

The maternal intake of iodine during pregnancy is recommended in order for parents to foster the healthy development of thyroid hormone production and neurocognitive functions in children. However, a recent publication in the Journal of Pediatrics calls into question some of the iodine supplements made available on the U.S. market. Of particular concern are the excessive amounts of iodine contained in their daily doses. According to the article, the over supplementation with iodine during pregnancy could lead tot he development of congenital hypothyroidism in newborns.

As a small chemical molecule, iodine is often referred to as a trace element or a micronutrient. Its sole function in humans is to serve as a building block for the synthesis of thyroid hormones (thyroxine -T4 and triiodothyronine -T3) in the thyroid gland. Of particular significance, however, is the importance of these thyroid hormones in the development of a fetus. From the time of conception until very late in the pregnancy the fetus is almost entirely dependent upon the mother for its supply of thyroid hormones.

During pregnancy, iodine assists in the maturation of a baby’s brain and nervous system. Therefore, it is imperative that pregnant women receive an adequate supply of iodine from their diet. According to the World Health Organization, iodine deficiency during pregnancy is the commonest cause of preventable intellectual impairment in our world today. The more severe the iodine deficiency, then the greater is the risk of brain damage and intellectual impairment.

The importance of iodine supplementation is not to be overlooked. Accordingly, several iodine supplements exist to provide pregnant women with a means of obtaining the appropriate amount of the micronutrient. However, of significant concern, is the potential for over supplementation. According to a research paper published in the Journal of Pediatrics, the “over supplementation with iodine during pregnancy could lead to the development of congenital hypothyroidism in newborns.” Subsequently, the publication describes three individual cases in which infants were diagnosed with congenital hypothyroidism as a result of excess maternal iodine supplementation.

Dr. Kara Connelley of Oregon Health & Science University, co-author of the publication, acknowledged that the three children were exposed to 12.5 mg of iodine on a daily basis while their mothers were either breast feeding or pregnant. However, 12.5 mg of iodine is more than 11 times the safe upper limit.

“The use of iodine-containing supplements in pregnancy and while breast feeding is recommended,” noted Connelly. “However, these cases demonstrate the potential hazard of exceeding the safe upper limit for daily ingestion.”

Complicating the already volatile situation, is the exponential increase in dietary supplement usage. Many Americans unknowingly take tainted dietary supplements that contain undisclosed or unsafe ingredients. Accordingly, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently cracking down on the distribution of such products. Connelley and her colleagues have assisted in the FDA’s efforts, calling for an increased attention in the use of nutritional supplements containing iodine in amounts that far exceed the recommended daily allowance during pregnancy.

According to Connelley, “the use of nutritional supplements is increasing in our society due to the belief that they are healthy and safe and can replace dietary deficiencies with minimal side effects.” Furthermore, “the mothers of these three infants were ingesting a nutritional supplement whose iodine content far exceeded the daily recommended intake and had elevated iodine levels in urine and breast milk samples.”

Subsequent studies conducted by Connelley and her team of researchers reveled that the three infants had blood iodine levels that were ten times higher then that of a healthy infant. While the World Health Organization recommends 200-300 ug of iodine daily during pregnancy for normal fetal thyroid hormone production and neurocognitive development, 1,100 ug is considered to be the safe upper limit for daily ingestion.

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If you or a loved one has given birth to a child with hypothyroidism after taking iodine supplements, you may be entitled to financial compensation. For a free case review, please click the link below or call toll free 24 hrs/day 1-(949) 557-5800.