The developing brain during pregnancy and the first 3 years of life is particularly sensitive to iodine deficiency. According to the WHO, the single greatest preventable cause of mental retardation is iodine deficiency.

Attending the American Academy of Restorative Medicine conference in San Diego this fall, I was given the opportunity to hear Dr. Flechas, MD, speak about iodine and say that taking iodine during pregnancy can increase the IQ of the child.  He gives 12.5mg of iodine to all of his pregnant mothers and claims to have several genius IQ children in his practice.  He says giving iodine after 2 years old will not increase their IQ, and that IQ is set by 2 years old.

The RDA for iodine in pregnant women is 220micrograms, about 10 times less the amount recommended by Dr. Flechas.  He believes the amount of iodine should be equivalent to the average dietary intake of a Japanese woman, which he reports is 13.8 mg.

Intrigued, I found several studies to support this.  A meta-analysis of studies done in China concluded “the level of iodine nutrition plays a critical role in the intellectual development of children”.  Those children in iodine deficient areas without supplementation had an average of 12.45 IQ points lower than in those regions with enough iodine (1).  Another meta-analysis found iodine deficiency was associated with 13.5 points lower IQ score in children and adolescents (2).

Other benefits associated with Iodine

Other reported benefits of higher iodine/iodide supplementation are increased energy, increased body temperature for those who are cold, detoxification of bromides and fluorides, improved fibrocystic breasts, improved insulin resistance, healed hyperthyroidism/ hypothyroidism, as well as an association with decreased rates of breast cancer.

Iodine concentrates in the thyroid and thyroid hormones increase metabolism and energy. Iodine also competes with the other halides such as bromides and fluorides, which are increasing in our environment. Some areas of the US have much less iodine than other areas, and iodine testing is available.

Concerns with Iodine

Iodine in higher doses (over 1mg) is seen as controversial because of reports of aggravations of Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, causing hypothyroidism, causing autoimmune thyroiditis, and causing “iodism”.  It is also contraindicated in those with hot thyroid nodules and should not be given suddenly to those who are very deficient in iodine.  The bottom line is that iodine may be very beneficial but needs to be taken with medical supervision.

If you suspect iodine deficiency or have questions about iodine supplementation, speak to one of our doctors about this essential trace element.

More reading:

Brownstein, David. Iodine: Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It.  West Bloomfield, MI: Medical Alternatives Press

Qian M, et al. The Effects of iodine on intelligence in children: a meta-analysis of studies conducted in China. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2005;14(1):32-42.

Bleichrodt, N. & Born, M. P. (1994) A metaanalysis of research on iodine and its relationship to cognitive development. Stanbury, J. B. eds. The Damaged Brain of Iodine Deficiency :195-200 Cognizant Communication Corporation New York, NY.