Target Health Blog

Iodine Deficiency May Reduce Pregnancy Chances

January 22, 2018

Women's Health

Iodine is a mineral used by the body to regulate metabolism. It also helps regulate bone growth and brain development in children. Iodine is found in seafood, iodized salt, dairy products, and some fruits and vegetables. Severe iodine deficiency has long been known to cause intellectual and developmental delays in infants.

According to an article published in Human Reproduction (11 January 2018), women with moderate to severe iodine deficiency may take longer to achieve a pregnancy, compared to women with normal iodine levels. The study is the first to investigate the potential effects of mild to moderate iodine deficiency -- common among women in the United States and the United Kingdom -- on the ability to become pregnant. 

For the study, the authors, analyzed data collected from 501 U.S. couples who were planning pregnancy from 2005 to 2009. The couples were part of the Longitudinal Investigation of Fertility and the Environment (LIFE) study, which sought to examine the relationship between fertility, lifestyle and environmental exposures. When the women enrolled in the study, they provided a urine sample from which their iodine levels were measured. Each woman was also given a digital, at-home pregnancy test. Baseline results from the 467 women analyzed in the current study, showed that iodine status was sufficient in 260 (55.7%), mildly deficient in 102 (21.8%), moderately deficient in 97 (20.8%) and severely deficient in eight (1.7%).

To estimate a couple's chances of pregnancy during each menstrual cycle, the authors used a statistical measure called the fecundability odds ratio (FOR). A FOR less than one suggests a longer time to pregnancy, while a FOR greater than one suggests a shorter time to pregnancy. Results showed that women who had moderate-to-severe iodine deficiency had a 46% lower chance of becoming pregnant during each menstrual cycle, compared to women who had sufficient iodine concentrations. Women in the mildly deficient range had a smaller, statistically insignificant increase in the time it took to conceive. Although the study population was not a representative sample of the U.S. population, the authors noted that the percentage of women in the study having insufficient iodine (44.3%) is close to that seen in population-wide studies. For example, a previous study estimated that 30% of U.S. women of childbearing age had insufficient levels of iodine. The authors concluded that if their findings are confirmed, public health officials in countries where iodine deficiency is common may want to consider programs to increase iodine intake in women of child-bearing age.

The authors cautioned that women who are concerned they may not be getting enough iodine may wish to consult their physicians before making dietary changes or taking supplements.

Foods high in iodine include:

1. Sea Vegetables, including Kelp, Arame, Hiziki, Kombu, and Wakame. Kelp has the highest amount of iodine of any food on the planet and just one serving offers 4 times the daily minimum requirement.

2. Cranberries: This antioxidant rich fruit is another great source of iodine. About 4 ounces of cranberries contain approximately 400/mcg of iodine. I recommend buying fresh organic berries or juice. If you buy cranberry juice from the store, be aware of how much sugar it contains.

3. Organic Navy Beans: Many beans are a great food source of iodine and navy beans may top the list. Just 1/2 cup of these beans contain about 32/mcg of iodine.

4. Organic Strawberries: This tasty red fruit packs up to 10% of your daily iodine needs in just a single serving. One cup of fresh strawberries has approximately 13/mcg of iodine.

5. Raw, Organic Cheese: One ounce of raw cheddar cheese contains around 10-15 mcg of iodine.

6. Organic Potatoes: Leave the skin on and one medium-sized baked potato holds 60/mcg of iodine

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