MORE THAN A PINCH OF SALT
Sustained iodine nutrition is essential to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health
Iodine deficiency, one of the most common micronutrient deficiencies, has a pivotal role in growth, development and survival of children. The spectrum of Iodine Deficiency Disorders ( IDD) includes goitre, cretinism, hypothyroidism, brain damage, abortion, stillbirth, mental retardation, psycho- motor defects and hearing and speech impairment. Pregnant and lactating women are at increased risk of IDD as during pregnancy and lactation, the iodine requirement is increased to meet the needs of both mother and child. Iodine deficiency during this critical “thousand day” period leads to serious consequences.
Sustained iodine nutrition is essential to achieve the Millennium Development Goals ( MDG) of reducing child mortality and improving maternal health. IDD is the most common cause of preventable brain damage globally. Children born in iodine- deficient areas are known to have 13.5 IQ points less than those born in iodine- sufficient areas. A report by US- based Journal of Economic Growth has shown that an increment of national average IQ by one point leads to 0.11 per cent increase in national GDP.
Iodine is an essential micronutrient which is needed in a minute quantity daily. The total quantity of iodine present in body is 15- 20 mg, most of which is in the thyroid gland. The recommended daily allowance of iodine for adults is 150 micrograms/ day, which increases to 250 micrograms/ day in pregnancy and lactation. Children require 90- 120 micrograms/ day of iodine depending on their age. In India, around 400 million people are at risk of IDD due to insufficient iodine intake. IDD is endemic in the country with 303 out of 365 districts surveyed reporting total goitre rate ( TGR) greater than 10 per cent.
Optimal iodine nutrition is essential for a healthy society. The Government of India should ensure attainment of universal coverage of salt iodisation and sustainable elimination of IDD.
S. Pandav Head of the department,
Centre for Community Medicine, AIIMS, New Delhi