Background: Dietary iodine requirements are high during pregnancy, lactation, and infancy, making women and infants vulnerable to iodine deficiency. Universal salt iodization (USI) has been remarkably successful for preventing iodine deficiency in the general population, but it is uncertain if USI provides adequate iodine intakes during the first 1000 d.
Objective: We set out to assess if USI provides sufficient dietary iodine to meet the iodine requirements and achieve adequate iodine nutrition in all vulnerable population groups.
Methods: We conducted an international, cross-sectional, multicenter study in 3 study sites with mandatory USI legislation. We enrolled 5860 participants from 6 population groups (school-age children, nonpregnant nonlactating women of reproductive age, pregnant women, lactating women, 0–6-mo-old infants, and 7–24-mo-old infants) and assessed iodine status [urinary iodine concentration (UIC)] and thyroid function in Linfen, China (n = 2408), Tuguegarao, the Philippines (n = 2512), and Zagreb, Croatia (n = 940). We analyzed the iodine concentration in household salt, breast milk, drinking water, and cow's milk.
Results: The salt iodine concentration was low (<15 mg/kg) in 2.7%, 33.6%, and 3.1%, adequate (15–40 mg/kg) in 96.3%, 48.4%, and 96.4%, and high (>40 mg/kg) in 1.0%, 18.0%, and 0.5% of household salt samples in Linfen (n = 402), Tuguegarao (n = 1003), and Zagreb (n = 195), respectively. The median UIC showed adequate iodine nutrition in all population groups, except for excessive iodine intake in school-age children in the Philippines and borderline low intake in pregnant women in Croatia.
Conclusions: Salt iodization at ∼25 mg/kg that covers a high proportion of the total amount of salt consumed supplies sufficient dietary iodine to ensure adequate iodine nutrition in all population groups, although intakes may be borderline low during pregnancy. Large variations in salt iodine concentrations increase the risk for both low and high iodine intakes. Strict monitoring of the national salt iodization program is therefore essential for optimal iodine nutrition. This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT02196337.