Iodine deficiency in pregnancy, infancy and childhood and its consequences for brain development

Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2010 Feb;24(1):29-38. doi: 10.1016/j.beem.2009.09.002.


Iodine deficiency during foetal development and early childhood is associated with cognitive impairment. Randomised clinical studies in school-aged children encountered in the literature indicate that cognitive performance can be improved by iodine supplementation, but most studies suffer from methodological constraints. Tests to assess cognitive performance in the domains that are potentially affected by iodine deficiency need to be refined. Maternal iodine supplementation in areas of mild-to-moderate iodine deficiency may improve cognitive performance of the offspring, but randomised controlled studies with long-term outcomes are lacking. Studies in infants or young children have not been conducted. The best indicators for iodine deficiency in children are thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) in newborns and thyroglobulin (Tg) in older children. Urinary iodine may also be useful but only at the population level. Adequate salt iodisation will cover the requirements of infants and children as well as pregnant women. However, close monitoring remains essential.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / embryology
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Child
  • Child Nutrition Disorders / complications
  • Child Nutrition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Child Nutrition Disorders / etiology*
  • Child Nutrition Disorders / prevention & control
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Female
  • Fetal Nutrition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Fetal Nutrition Disorders / etiology*
  • Fetal Nutrition Disorders / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Nutrition Disorders / complications
  • Infant Nutrition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Infant Nutrition Disorders / etiology*
  • Infant Nutrition Disorders / prevention & control
  • Iodine / administration & dosage
  • Iodine / deficiency*
  • Iodine / pharmacology
  • Iodine / therapeutic use
  • Maternal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Pregnancy
  • Sodium Chloride, Dietary / administration & dosage
  • Thyroid Function Tests


  • Sodium Chloride, Dietary
  • iodized salt
  • Iodine