Iodine deficiency: consequences and progress toward elimination

Food Nutr Bull. 2003 Dec;24(4 Suppl):S91-8. doi: 10.1177/15648265030244S205.


While traditionally associated with cretinism and goiter, iodine deficiency has broad effects on central nervous system development that can occur in the absence of either condition. Any maternal iodine deficiency results in a range of intellectual, motor, and hearing deficits in offspring. This loss in intellectual capacity limits educational achievement of populations and the economic prowess of nations. Progress made since the historic World Summit for Children in 1990 has been outstanding. Approximately 70% of households in the world used iodized salt by 2000, compared with less than 20% in 1990. It is estimated that at least 85 million newborns out of 130 million annual births are protected from a loss in learning ability that would otherwise have occurred. The elimination of iodine deficiency, by expedient production, marketing, and universal consumption of iodized salt, represents a significant development effort in public nutrition. Although globally iodine nutrition has greatly improved, 20% to 30% of pregnancies and thus newborns still do not fully benefit from the use of iodized salt. Countries where success is in evidence could rapidly revert back to deficiency if vigilance is not maintained. Just as success came through concerted public-private-civic actions, making sure that this is expanded and will steadily go on requires continuous collaboration.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / prevention & control
  • Congenital Hypothyroidism / epidemiology*
  • Congenital Hypothyroidism / prevention & control
  • Developing Countries
  • Female
  • Goiter, Endemic / epidemiology*
  • Goiter, Endemic / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Iodine / administration & dosage
  • Iodine / deficiency*
  • Iodine / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications
  • Sodium Chloride, Dietary / administration & dosage
  • Sodium Chloride, Dietary / therapeutic use*


  • Sodium Chloride, Dietary
  • iodized salt
  • Iodine