August 3, 2012 — A case series scheduled to be published in the Journal of Pediatrics has linked the maternal use of iodine supplements to newborn thyroid problems. Congenital hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid does not produce enough hormones, and if it is not diagnosed and treated, the infant could suffer permanent neurological impairment. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that women consume iodine daily during pregnancy, but unfortunately, women who consume too much may put their infant at risk of hypothyroidism.
Several doctors and researchers collaborated to describe the cases of three infants who were born with congenital hypothyroidism. The mothers had taken 12.5-mg of iodine each day, which is 11-times more than what the WHO recommends. The women continued to take the iodine supplements while they were breastfeeding, and the iodine passed through the breast milk to the infant.
Blood tests on the infants showed they had 10-times the healthy amount of iodine in their systems.
When the body is exposed to excessive amounts of iodine, the thyroid stops producing hormones. Although adults can bounce back after a few days of excessive iodine intake, infants and fetuses that are exposed to excessive iodine may never recover completely.
Pregnant women usually consume iodine in prenatal vitamins, dietary supplements, and in seaweed.
According to the researchers, “The use of iodine-containing supplements in pregnancy and while breastfeeding is recommended in the United States. However, these cases demonstrate the potential hazard of exceeding the safe upper limit for daily ingestion.”
Many dietary supplements fail to adequately warn about the potential risks. Complicating matters even further, doctors do not always ask what supplements a pregnant woman is taking. Many people who use supplements falsely believe that they are safe because they’re ‘natural.’ In reality, supplements can have severe side effects — especially when the recommended daily allowance of vitamins or minerals is greatly exceeded. This study highlights that the dangers of dietary supplements can affect fetuses and newborns in addition to the people who use the supplement.
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