Severe iodine deficiency during pregnancy seriously influences fetal brain development and in the worst case induces cretinism. Recent studies have shown that even a mild iodine deficiency during pregnancy and during the first years of life adversely affects brain development. The World Health Organisation (WHO) considers iodine deficiency as the most common preventable cause of early childhood mental deficiency. In this context, the insufficient production of the four iodine atoms containing thyroxine seems to play a causal role, i. e., due to the iodine substrate deficiency the neuronally particularly relevant free-thyroxine level falls. Due to the very limited iodine storage capacity, the infantile thyroid is eminently dependent on an adequate and steady iodine supply. In the first month of life, when milk is the only energy- and nutrient provider, infants fed a commercial formula regularly have a sufficient iodine supply. However, breastfed infants, who depend on maternal iodine status, frequently show an inadequate iodine intake. Furthermore, iodine intake is critical when complementary food (CF) is introduced. Especially homemade CF is poor in iodine, but also commercial CFs are only partly fortified. A simultaneous inadequate iodine supply of the breastfeeding mother and the preferential use of mostly iodine-poor organic milk cannot ensure an adequate iodine supply of the infant. In terms of an improvement of nutrient supply, especially concerning an unhindered brain development, the corresponding German reference value for iodine intake of infants until age 4 month should be raised from currently 40 microg/d to at least 60 microg/d (WHO-reference: 90 microg/d).
Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart, New York.