News - June 7, 2007

Cheaper iodine oil works better

Wageningen researchers have come up with a cheap and safe way of giving iodine to children in developing countries. They discovered that the effect of one good dose of groundnut oil with added iodine lasts for a year.

The most common way of dealing with an iodine deficiency is to add the element to cooking salt. In areas where this doesn’t work, development workers give children injections of oil with iodine added to it. An injection lasts for three years. The disadvantage of injections in developing countries, however, is that they can be a source of infection.

This was the reason that the Wageningen researchers looked at whether it is possible to drink the iodised oil. The traditional iodised oil preparations on the market are made from poppy seed oil, and are expensive. The Wageningen researchers decided to examine the effectiveness of newer and cheaper preparations, based on groundnut oil.

Both preparations were effective in tests that the researchers did with Indonesian schoolchildren. After taking a single 100 ml dose of iodised oil, the children’s thyroid glands shrunk in size. After fifty weeks the effect was still present, evidence that both preparations worked, as a shortage of iodine leads to an enlarged thyroid gland.

Interestingly, the cheaper product worked even better than the more expensive one. The researchers concluded this from measurements of the concentration of iodine in the children’s urine. The urine of the children that had taken the cheap preparation had a higher quantity of iodine in it than the urine of the children that had taken the expensive product, for up to fifty weeks. That means that the iodine was absorbed better from the cheap groundnut oil.

The body needs iodine to make thyroxine, a hormone that is particularly important for children, as it is partly responsible for the development of mental capacity. Studies indicate that an increase in iodine intake also leads to a ten-point increase in the national IQ.

The research has been published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. / Willem Koert