Suboptimal Maternal Iodine Intake Is Associated with Impaired Child Neurodevelopment at 3 Years of Age in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study

J Nutr. 2017 Jul;147(7):1314-1324. doi: 10.3945/jn.117.250456. Epub 2017 May 17.


Background: Severe iodine deficiency in pregnancy has major effects on child neurodevelopment, but less is known about the potential consequences of mild-to-moderate deficiency and iodine supplement use.Objective: We explored the associations between maternal iodine intake and child neurodevelopment at 3 y of age and the potential impact of maternal intake of iodine from supplements on the same outcomes.Methods: This population-based prospective observational study included 48,297 mother-child pairs recruited during pregnancy from 2002 to 2008. Maternal iodine intake was calculated based on a validated food-frequency questionnaire answered during midpregnancy that covered mean intake since the beginning of pregnancy. Associations between iodine intake and maternal-reported child language and motor development and behavior problems were explored by multivariable regression analyses.Results: In 33,047 mother-child pairs, excluding iodine supplement users, maternal iodine intake was associated with child language delay (P = 0.024), externalizing and internalizing behavior problems (both P < 0.001), and fine motor skills (P = 0.002) but not gross motor skills or the risk of not walking unaided at 17 mo of age. In 74% of the participants who had an iodine intake <160 μg/d (Estimated Average Requirement), suboptimal iodine intake was estimated to account for ∼5% (95% CI: -5%, 14%) of the cases of language delay, 16% (95% CI: 0%, 21%) of the cases of externalizing behavior problems >1.5 SD, and 16% (95% CI: 10%, 21%) of the cases of internalizing behavior problems >1.5 SD. In 48,297 mother-child pairs, including iodine supplement users, we found no protective effects of supplemental iodine during pregnancy on neurodevelopment.Conclusions: Maternal iodine intake below the Estimated Average Requirement during pregnancy was associated with symptoms of child language delay, behavior problems, and reduced fine motor skills at 3 y of age. The results showed no evidence of a protective effect of iodine supplementation during pregnancy.

Keywords: MoBa; Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study; dietary supplements; iodine; neurodevelopment; pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child Development*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iodine / administration & dosage*
  • Iodine / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Norway
  • Nutritional Status
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*


  • Iodine