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Elizabeth Pearce: Simple vitamin supplement can alter imbalance

It seems unconscionable that a country with the resources of the UK should be iodine-deficient in 2011. Until this study, no large-scale national survey of iodine status had been done in Britain for decades.

Probably – without close monitoring of iodine nutrition – milk consumption or milk iodine-content has decreased, or both have, resulting in the reappearance of iodine deficiency.

Hopefully, this data will stimulate efforts to ensure adequate and stable iodine nutrition, preferably through the mandatory iodisation of salt. However, it will presumably take some time for public health officials to develop a comprehensive strategy.

Meanwhile, time is of the essence, because children across the UK are currently being born unprotected from the effects of iodine deficiency.

Women who are pregnant, lactating, or planning a pregnancy should be advised to take a daily vitamin supplement of potassium iodide. This approach has been advocated in North America, Australia and New Zealand.

Whichever method is used, there needs to be ongoing monitoring of the food supply and iodine levels in the population. We cannot afford to become complacent.

Elizabeth Pearce is an endocrinologist at the Boston University School of Medicine. Taken from 'The Lancet'