Pregnant women should eat foods rich in iodine to safeguard the mental development of their children.
That's the finding of a new study carried out by universities in Surrey and Bristol. The researchers found that a lack of iodine in the diets of pregnant women and those wanting to have children can have a negative impact on the foetal brain development of their offspring.
Iodine, found in dairy products and fish, is used by the thyroid gland to produce hormones that have a direct effect on the brain.
Led by Professor Margaret Rayman of the University of Surrey, the study examined samples and information from Children of the 90s research project, also known as the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), that involved more than 14,000 mums-to-be in 1991 and 1992. Their children's health and development have been studied in detail ever since they were born.
One of the tests involved determining how much iodine was in the urine of 1,040 women during their first trimester of their pregnancies and just over two thirds of them were found to lack sufficient levels of the element.
The children's IQ and reading ability were assessed at the ages of eight and nine respectively and after taking into account factors such as breast-feeding and the education of their parents, those whose mothers lacked enough iodine were found to be more likely to have a lower IQ and less able to read.
Copyright Press Association 2013