Krakow declaration urges Europe to tackle iodine deficiency in kids

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

The pan-European call to action involves 31 EUthyroid partners representing 27 countries. ©Jerzy Sawicz
The pan-European call to action involves 31 EUthyroid partners representing 27 countries. ©Jerzy Sawicz
Scientists taking part in the EUthyroid project have signed up to the Krakow declaration of iodine, which urges European governments to support efforts in eliminating the micronutrient’s deficiency.

The action is a response to the disjointed approach seen in EU countries that results in half of all new-borns in Europe failing to reach their full cognitive potential due to iodine deficiency.

“The Krakow Declaration on iodine demands national governments and public health officials to be aware of their responsibility to take care of the sufficient iodine status of their populations instead of relying on scientists and other stakeholders to take action,”​ said EUthyroid project coordinator professor Henry Völzke from the University of Greifswald in Germany.

“This is the only way to eradicate iodine deficiency disorders in Europe.”

As well as cognitive impairment, infants receiving inadequate iodine intake are also at risk of physical ailments including swelling of the thyroid gland and hypothyroidism.

Iodine also plays a role in maintaining fertility, optimization of the immune system and stabilisation of metabolism and body weight.

The consortium, made up of European researchers from 27 countries, are demanding regulators and policymakers fortify food-grade salt with iodine to ensure free trade of fortified foodstuffs in Europe.

In addition, it is proposing that national governments and public health authorities perform harmonised monitoring and evaluation of fortification programmes at regular intervals.

Scientists, together with public-health care workers, patient organisations, industry and the public, should support measures to ensure that iodine deficiency disorder (IDD) prevention programmes are sustainable.

Salt iodisation in Poland 

“The introduction of obligatory iodine prophylaxis mainly based on household salt iodisation (1997) significantly improved iodine nutrition in Poland with a measurable impact on health,”​ said professor Alicja Hubalewska-Dydejczyk from the Jagiellonian University Medical College in Poland.

“The continuous and rapid changes in environmental conditions and nutritional behaviours force the urgent need to implement the long-term iodine monitoring program and to adjust the tools of iodine prophylaxis to the needs.

“The pilot monitoring study undertaken in the second half of 2017 in Poland showed that sensitive populations such as pregnant women and children require the special attention of endocrinologists and national health care decision-makers to ensure sufficient iodine intake”

During pregnancy, women have a sharply increased need for iodine, which is frequently insufficient in their regular diets.

However, most mothers are unaware of the consequences of low iodine intake on their children.

WHO iodine efforts

Iodine deficiency can be prevented cost-effectively by the provision of fortified foodstuffs with the World Health Organisation (WHO) calling for regular monitoring to eliminate iodine deficiency in Europe.

However, only eight countries in the EU have complied with this step towards tackling iodine deficiency.

Greg Garrett, The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition’s (GAIN) director of food policy and financing said, “Today, due to the efforts of so many across the globe, iodine deficiency disorders are quickly becoming a feature of the past.

“However, even in Europe, low iodine intakes persist. We stand by the Krakow Declaration with the hope that it catalyses more action among policymakers throughout Europe and beyond to implement evidence-based policy and actions to prevent all cases of iodine deficiency, including through universal salt iodisation”.

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