Endocrine Abstracts (2015) 38 P445 | DOI: 10.1530/endoabs.38.P445

A cross sectional survey of dietary iodine intake in pregnant women living in Northern Ireland

Paul McMullan1,2, Jayne Woodside2, Lesley Hamil2 & Karen Mullan1


1Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, UK; 2Queen’s University, Belfast, UK.


Adequate iodine intake during pregnancy is required for the production of thyroid hormones and brain development in the foetus. Recent evidence has suggested re-emergence of mild iodine deficiency in the UK but there are few studies that have specifically looked at iodine intake in pregnant women. Current World Health Organisation recommendation is for 250 mcg/day intake of iodine in pregnancy and the following are good sources of dietary iodine: 1 pint milk (~140–220 mcg); one egg (~20 mcg) and 100 g white fish (~115 mcg). A cross-sectional survey was carried out to assess iodine intake amongst pregnant women (n=241) living in Northern Ireland (NI). Iodine intake was estimated using an iodine specific food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) during each trimester. Twelve women also completed a 4-day food diary during the first trimester. Sixty six per cent of women in the first trimester consumed (≤0.5 pint (280 ml) milk per day although milk consumption increased by the third trimester (P<0.05). Egg consumption did not change significantly through pregnancy (15% none; 22% 1 egg/week). White fish intake was low with 111/218 (51%) eating fish never or ≤1/month. Only 4/218 (1.7%) consumed white fish >1/week. In the first trimester 146/215 (68%) women were taking an iodine containing supplement. Mean daily iodine intake from the 4 day food diaries was 108 μg (SD 42 μg). The results suggest that pregnant women living in Northern Ireland have low intake of foods known to be rich sources of iodine. Diet alone does not appear to be adequate to reach the recommended daily intake. Only 68% of women took an iodine containing supplement during the early stages of pregnancy. The UK has no food iodination programme and so public health messaging along with early ante-natal education is key to improving dietary iodine intake.

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