Iodine deficiency in the world: where do we stand at the turn of the century?

Thyroid. 2001 May;11(5):437-47. doi: 10.1089/105072501300176390.


Iodine deficiency is the leading cause of preventable mental retardation. Universal salt iodization (USI), calling for all salt used in agriculture, food processing, catering and household to be iodized, is the agreed strategy for achieving iodine sufficiency. This article reviews published information on programs for the sustainable elimination of the iodine deficiency disorders and reports new data on monitoring and impact of salt iodization programs at the population level. Currently, 68% of households from areas of the world with previous iodine deficiency have access to iodized salt, compared to less than 10% a decade ago. This great achievement, a public health success unprecedented in the field of noncommunicable diseases, must be better recognized by the health sector, including thyroidologists. On the other hand, the managers and sponsors of programs of iodized salt must appreciate the continuing need for greatly improved monitoring and quality control. For example, partnership evaluation of iodine nutrition using the ThyroMobil model in 35,223 schoolchildren at 378 sites of 28 countries has shown that many previously iodine deficient parts of the world now have median urinary iodine concentrations well above 300 microg/L, which is excessive and carries the risk of adverse health consequences. The elimination of iodine deficiency is within reach but major additional efforts are required to cover the whole population at risk and to ensure quality control and sustainability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperthyroidism / etiology
  • Intellectual Disability / etiology
  • Iodine / deficiency*
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange
  • Pregnancy
  • Public Health
  • Sodium Chloride, Dietary
  • Thyroxine / deficiency


  • Sodium Chloride, Dietary
  • iodized salt
  • Iodine
  • Thyroxine