Food and Behaviour Research

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Subclinical prenatal iodine deficiency negatively affects infant development in Northern China

Choudhury N, Gorman KS (2003) J Nutr.  2003 Oct;133(10): 3162-5 

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Although mild-to-moderate levels of iodine deficiency (ID) have been associated with poor cognitive outcomes in children, little is known about subclinical prenatal ID and infant development. In this study, the association between elevated cord blood thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH, thyrotropin) and infant development was examined in Northern China.

Three groups of infants with elevated cord blood TSH were compared with infants with normal TSH levels on an information processing task at 7 mo, and in cognitive and motor developmental assessments at 13 mo. Infants with elevated TSH had poorer information processing skills and lower scores on the cognitive development index. There were no differences in motor abilities. Relationships between socioenvironmental factors and iodine status were assessed. Infants from more rural settings and those whose mothers had completed fewer years of schooling and had lower paying occupations had higher cord blood TSH levels. A regression analysis indicated that maternal education was predictive of cognitive performance among infants with elevated TSH but not control infants.

The findings suggest that subclinical prenatal ID has negative effects on infant development and that, in some instances, maternal education may ameliorate these effects.