Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Breastfeeding provides babies with iodine

Date:
November 25, 2013
Source:
ETH Zurich
Summary:
WHO recommends that breastfeeding mothers without access to iodised salt should take an iodine supplement capsule to provide a year's worth of iodine for them and their infant. Researchers tested the effectiveness of this method for the first time.

Iodine is essential for the healthy development of children. ETH-researchers now show that breastfeeding provides babies best with the iodine they need.
Credit: Illustration: Andrea Lingk / ETH Zurich

Iodine is essential for the human body. This trace element is especially crucial for infants in order to ensure healthy development. Iodine deficiency can disrupt growth and damage the nervous system. In iodine-poor regions, such as Switzerland with its iodine-deficient soils, iodized salt is recommended for use in cooking and the food industry. So newborns generally receive enough of the trace element through breast milk and baby food containing added iodine. However, iodized salt or supplemented baby food are not available everywhere, particularly in remote areas of developing countries, and do not always reach vulnerable segments of the population.

To ensure newborns receive enough of the trace element, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that new mothers take one iodine capsule to provide a year's dose of iodine for the mother and child by way of breastfeeding. If breastfeeding is not possible, physicians give a lower concentration pill directly to the infant. The effectiveness of these two methods, however, had never been tested. For the first time, a team of researchers from ETH compared the direct administration of iodine with indirect nourishment through breast milk in newborns and monitored the iodine status of mothers and their babies over a one-year period. In the course of the study, they found that giving an iodine capsule to the mother is more effective than administering it to the child directly. However, both methods are insufficient to ensure that both mother and child receive enough of the trace element.

All reserves put into breast milk

Raschida Bouhouch, a PhD student in the Laboratory of Human Nutrition at ETH, and her colleagues conducted a blind study of 241 mother-and-child pairings in Morocco. Half the mothers were given an iodine capsule and the baby a placebo. The parameters were reversed for the other half of participants. The pills were administered along with the first vaccination given during the first eight weeks following birth. Over the next nine months, Bouhouch and her colleagues measured the iodine concentration in breast milk and urine of the mother and her child to determine their iodine status.

Although administration of iodine to the mother passed an astonishing amount of the trace element from the mother's breast milk to the child, the iodine concentration in the urine of the baby was well below the critical threshold just nine months after birth. In the case of the mother herself, the one-time dose was unable to remedy the iodine deficiency at any point in time. "The mother's body is apparently programmed to put all its iodine reserves into nourishing the child and does not keep sufficient reserves for itself," explains Bouhouch. Shortly after birth, the infants had a much better iodine status than their mothers; however, the values were still under the minimum threshold needed by the body.

WHO recommendations inadequate

In the comparison, administration of iodine directly to the newborn was significantly less effective than indirect administration through breast milk. One reason for this might be that the child's body absorbs the trace element better when it is passed through breast milk than in a pre-processed form. The iodine status of the infants who received the capsule directly was usually below the threshold.

"That does not mean that direct iodine administration is not a good thing," emphasized Bouhouch. Both methods reduced disorders of the thyroid, which requires iodine in order to produce hormones in the infant. According to Bouhouch, WHO's recommendation still needs to be adjusted, however, as a one-time iodine dose is effective for only about six months rather than an entire year as previously thought. The iodine capsule is apparently insufficient to raise the mother's iodine status to a healthy level either. "It would be better to give the mothers iodine twice instead of only once a year." Even when iodine was administered directly to the infant, more regular and lower doses were reported to be preferable. The strategy undertaken in the study to give the iodine capsule regularly at the time of the first vaccination after birth is also a highly promising approach that could become an official recommendation.

In addition, the researchers led by Michael Zimmermann, ETH Professor of Human Nutrition and director of the study, are investigating how the high iodine dose is metabolized in the bodies of children and mothers. The reaction inside the body is still not fully understood.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by ETH Zurich. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Raschida R Bouhouch, Sabir Bouhouch, Mohamed Cherkaoui, Abdelmounaim Aboussad, Sara Stinca, Max Haldimann, Maria Andersson, Michael B Zimmermann. Direct iodine supplementation of infants versus supplementation of their breastfeeding mothers: a double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial. The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, 2013; DOI: 10.1016/S2213-8587(13)70155-4

Cite This Page:

ETH Zurich. "Breastfeeding provides babies with iodine." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 November 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131125121759.htm>.
ETH Zurich. (2013, November 25). Breastfeeding provides babies with iodine. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131125121759.htm
ETH Zurich. "Breastfeeding provides babies with iodine." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131125121759.htm (accessed September 23, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Liberia Pleads for Help to Fight Ebola

Liberia Pleads for Help to Fight Ebola

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) Liberia's finance minister is urging the international community to quickly follow through on pledges of cash to battle Ebola. Bodies are piling up in the capital Monrovia as the nation awaits more help. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Doctor Says Border Controls Critical

Ebola Doctor Says Border Controls Critical

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) A Florida doctor who helped fight the expanding Ebola outbreak in West Africa says the disease can be stopped, but only if nations quickly step up their response and make border control a priority. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Global Ebola Aid Increasing But Critics Say It's Late

Global Ebola Aid Increasing But Critics Say It's Late

Newsy (Sep. 21, 2014) More than 100 tons of medical supplies were sent to West Africa on Saturday, but aid workers say the global response is still sluggish. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone in Lockdown to Control Ebola

Sierra Leone in Lockdown to Control Ebola

AP (Sep. 21, 2014) Sierra Leone residents remained in lockdown on Saturday as part of a massive effort to confine millions of people to their homes in a bid to stem the biggest Ebola outbreak in history. (Sept. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins