Iodine – just as important as folate in pregnancy?

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Both folate and iodine are important in our health, especially in children and pregnant women, and efforts must be made to address deficiency.

Members of the UK Iodine Group have written an article in the Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, and this discusses the importance of iodine and folate for the pregnant woman.


Folate is a B vitamin and is found naturally in some foods (e.g. green leafy vegetables) and folic acid is the form used in supplements and to fortify foods. You can read more about folate on the British Dietetic Association website. Women are recommended to take folic acid supplements prior to and during early pregnancy (see NHS website for full details on the dose and timing of supplementation).

There has been debate about adding folic acid to flour in the UK for many years, and this is still being considered as a public-health approach to reduce the incidence of folate deficiency


Many studies have shown that there is mild-to-moderate iodine deficiency in the pregnant population in the UK.

Although the effects of iodine deficiency are significant, they are less visible than the physical effects caused by folate deficiency, and are also far less understood in the general population.

In contrast to folic acid, there are no official UK recommendations for pregnant women to have additional iodine intake, or to take iodine supplements.

The UK also does not have a fortification policy for iodine, unlike many countries around the world where iodine is added to table salt (to give iodised salt).

What could be done about iodine deficiency in the UK?

Health authorities could consider raising the profile of iodine deficiency in the UK so that women planning a pregnancy, and those who are pregnant can ensure that they are consuming iodine-rich foods. More knowledge is needed on dietary sources, so that at-risk groups can be identified.

Another option is to consider a fortification policy in the general population so that women have sufficient iodine prior to pregnancy.

Read more in the article in the Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology

Content from Callum Wood 2020