[ASC-media] Media release: Many Australians now iodine-deficient

Richard Bray richybray at hotmail.com
Mon Jul 28 04:13:57 CEST 2008

AAS 19/08
28 July 2008
Growing concerns about iodine deficiency in women and children have led the Australian Academy of Science’s National Committee for Nutrition to urge the food industry to implement a proposal for the mandatory use of iodised salt in bread.
The committee would also like to see a government-funded monitoring program on the iodine status of Australians, and an education program for pregnant women. 
The results of recent studies have raised concerns and were the impetus for a one-day forum held by the Academy, the Nutrition Society of Australia and the International Life Sciences Institute Australasia at the Shine Dome on 26 May.
Most participants agreed that steps must be taken to avoid a more serious situation developing. However there were differing views as to the most effective actions to combat the problem.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand has proposed to mandate the use of iodised salt in all breads*. The proposal is to be fully implemented by September 2009 in both Australia and New Zealand. Although it’s a step in the right direction, it does not solve the problem for pregnant women who are the most vulnerable. 
Dr Mu Li outlined recent studies on iodine levels of school children in mainland Australia, showing that about 50% are classified as mildly or moderately iodine deficient, with 14% of children in NSW and 19% in Victoria classed as moderately iodine deficient.
Professor Cres Eastman emphasised that even mild iodine deficiency results in a reduction in average IQ and fewer gifted individuals. He noted studies from NSW and Victoria showing iodine deficiency is prevalent in over 50% of pregnant women living in these states.
Deficiency can cause enlarged thyroid glands (goitre), lower levels of thyroid hormones in the blood (hypothyroidism), weight gain, lethargy, intolerance to cold, increased blood cholesterol, mental slowness and reduced heart function. The most damaging disorders are irreversible mental retardation and cretinism.
The current deficiency is not fully understood but may be related to one or more of the following: 

reduced use of iodine-based cleaning products in the dairy industry;
decreased consumption of iodised salt, due to greater use of non-iodised salt. 
* Proposal P1003: Mandatory iodine fortification for Australia
Further information:
Prof Cres Eastman, Vice Chairman of the International Council for Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders: 02 94399396 or ceastman at med.usyd.edu.au
AAS National Committee for Nutrition statement www.science.org.au/natcoms/iodine.htm
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