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Many Prenatal Vitamins Are Inadequate

Feb 26, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

Media outlets are breaking with news that a recent study has found that many prenatal vitamins intended for pregnant and lactating women lack iodine, despite label descriptions.

The Examiner reported that although iodine is an important mineral needed for appropriate fetal growth, the study—conducted by the Boston University Iodine Research Laboratory—found an astounding 60 brands of prenatal vitamins contained less iodine than what product labels stated.  The Examiner noted that the New England Journal of Medicine also published a letter concerning the study.

dbTechno said the study was led by Dr. Elizabeth Pearce from the Boston University Medical Center; researchers looked at 114 products claiming to contain iodine.  The team indicated that of those reviewed, 87 were nonprescription and 27 required a prescription.  Most—90 percent—claimed to contain no less than 150 micrograms of iodine per dose, said dbTechno, adding that the team tested 60 types in its random study.  The team revealed that one average dose contained 119 micrograms—significantly less than the 150 micrograms advertised.  The World Health Organization recommends no less than 250 micrograms of supplemental iodine in pregnant and lactating women daily, said The Examiner.

The team also found that in 13 products, iodine levels were inconsistent—by at least 50 percent—with what was stated on the label, said dbTechno.  The Associated Press (AP) pointed out that prescription prenatal vitamins are subject to strict regulations; however, over-the-counter (OTC) prenatal vitamins are not. "The values of iodine are all over the map," Pearce said, according to US News & World Report, which also reported that the lowered iodine levels tended to be less than what is recommended by the American Thyroid Association (ATA).

The news is troubling because of iodine’s important role in developing babies.  "Iodine nutrition is critically important in pregnancy," explained Dr. Pearce, "Women who are deficient in pregnancy have children often with lower IQs or neurocognitive delays.  Iodine deficiency is the leading cause of preventable mental retardation in the world," quoted US News & World Report.  Dr. Pearce pointed out that the team concluded, "it seems that an ideal prenatal vitamin, in terms of iodine, does not exist…  About half of them have iodine that's derived from kelp and that's very variable."

The team also looked at the Internet and discovered 127 nonprescription and 96 prescription prenatal vitamins are currently available in the United States; 67 contained iodine from potassium iodide, 42 from kelp, and five from other sources, said US News & World Report.  "Products containing iodine from potassium iodide tended to be more consistent, [but] 150 micrograms of potassium iodide is not the same as 150 micrograms of iodine," Pearce explained.  "If you really want people to get what the American Thyroid Association [ATA] has recommended—which is 150 micrograms [of iodine] a day in a supplement—there isn't one, but we would prefer products made from potassium iodide."

US News & World Report stated that 2.2 billion people worldwide suffer from iodine deficiency, which, said the AP is the leading cause of mental retardation.


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