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REVIEW  RELEVANCE OF IODINE NUTRITION TO HEALTH IN THE 21ST CENTURY 

Minerva Medica 2017 April;108(2):124-35

DOI: 10.23736/S0026-4806.17.04884-4

Copyright © 2017 EDIZIONI MINERVA MEDICA

language: English

Historical aspects of iodine deficiency control

Jean-Baptiste VANDERPAS 1, Rodrigo MORENO-REYES 2

1 School of Public Health, Free University of Bruxelles, Bruxelles, Belgium; 2 Erasme Hospital, Unit of Nuclear Medicine, Free University of Bruxelles-ULB, Bruxelles, Belgium


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In 1895, iodine was characterized as an essential element of thyroid tissue by Baumann. The efficacy of iodine to prevent goiter was demonstrated by Marine in Northern USA in 1916-1920. Severe endemic goiter and cretinism had been almost entirely eliminated from continental Western Europe and Northern America before the 1930’s; however large populations elsewhere and even some places in Western Europe (Sicily) were still affected up to the 2000’s. Public health consequences of iodine deficiency are not limited to endemic goiter and cretinism. Iodine deficiency disorders include also increased neonatal death rate and decreased intellectual development, although these consequences are not included in the current estimation of the Global Burden Disease related to iodine deficiency. Severe iodine deficiency as a public health problem is now largely under control worldwide, but can still affect isolated places, in hard-to-reach and/or politically neglected populations. We emphasize the importance of maintaining international cooperation efforts, in order to monitor iodine status where iodine deficiency is now adequately controlled, and identify at-risk population where it is not. The goal should be now global eradication of severe iodine deficiency. Commercial distribution of iodized salt remains the most appropriate strategy. A randomized clinical trial in New Guinea clearly showed in the 1970’s that correcting severe iodine deficiency early in pregnancy prevents endemic neurological cretinism. This supports the essential role of thyroid hormones of maternal origin on the normal fetal development, during the first trimester of pregnancy (i.e. when fetal thyroid is still not functional). A randomized clinical trial in Congo (RD) in the 1970’s also showed that correcting severe iodine deficiency during pregnancy prevents myxœdematous cretinism, particularly prevalent in affected Congolese areas.


KEY WORDS: Goiter - Congenital hypothyroidism - Iodine - Selenium - History

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