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H Burgi, L Portmann, J Podoba, F Vertongen and M Srbecky

Salt iodine content in Switzerland was raised from 7.5 to 15 mg per kg in 1980, and since then dietary iodine intake has been considered to be sufficient, even though a slight decrease due to imported food has recently been reported. The aim of this study was to establish normal values for thyroid volumes of school children who can be assumed to have had a sufficient iodine intake all their lifetime. Moreover. the present investigation was undertaken to verify that iodine sufficiency had been achieved equally in two regions each served by one of the two Swiss salt producers. Mean iodine concentration in urine spot samples from school children was 16.1 microg/dl, and it was identical in both the city of Lausanne (n=215) and the city of Solothurn (n=208). Thus it can be stated that in both cities (served by two different salt producers) iodine intake is equal and sufficient. Accordingly, thyroid volumes measured by ultrasound in school children aged 6 to 16 years were the same in both Lausanne (n=202) and Solothurn (n=207). Moreover, the age-adjusted median volumes at the 97th percentiles closely agree with and validate provisional international reference values recently proposed by the World Health Organisation and by the International Council for Control of Iodine Deficiency Disease.

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MB Zimmermann, L Molinari, M Spehl, J Weidinger-Toth, J Podoba, S Hess and F Delange

OBJECTIVE: Interpretation of thyroid ultrasonography for assessing goiter prevalence requires valid reference criteria from iodine-sufficient populations. Reports have suggested the current reference criteria for thyroid volume (T(vol)) of WHO/ICCIDD (International Council for the Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders) may be too high. Our objective was to determine if inter-observer and/or inter-equipment variability contributes to the disagreement in sonographic T(vol) in children reported from iodine-sufficient areas. DESIGN: A 2-day workshop in which four experienced ultrasound examiners from around Europe measured T(vol) in 45 6--12-year-old Swiss schoolchildren using four different portable ultrasound machines. One of the participating examiners (observer A) had generated the T(vol) data in European children that are the basis for the WHO/ICCIDD reference criteria. METHODS: Sonographic T(vol) was measured in each child by all four examiners on all four machines. Six hundred and eighty-four examinations were completed, with examiners having no knowledge of one another's results. Inter-observer and inter-equipment variation was calculated. RESULTS: Mean inter-equipment variation in T(vol) was 15.2% (95% CI: 14.1, 16.3%). There were no significant differences in T(vol) between equipment (P=0.51). For all observers, the mean inter-observer variation in T(vol) was 25.6% (95% CI: 23.9, 27.2%). At all ages and all body surface areas, there was a large systematic measurement bias (+30% volume) between the mean T(vol) of observer A and the mean Tvol of observers B, C and D. Reanalysis using data from observers B, C and D reduced the mean inter-observer variation in T(vol) to 13.3% (95% CI: 11.9, 14.7%). A correction factor for the systematic difference of operator A for the P50 and P97 of T(vol) was estimated using analysis of covariance. When applied to the WHO/ICCIDD reference data, it sharply reduced the discrepancy between the WHO/ICCIDD criteria and those from other iodine-sufficient children around the world. CONCLUSIONS: Inter-equipment error contributes minimally to reported differences in sonographic T(vol). Even among experienced examiners, inter-observer variation in sonographic T(vol) in children can be high, and probably contributes to the current disagreement on normative values in iodine-sufficient children. A systematic bias at least partially explains why the WHO/ICCIDD reference data differ from those reported from other iodine-sufficient children around the world. The findings argue strongly for the standardization of methods used for sonographic measurement of T(vol) in children.

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WM Wiersinga, J Podoba, M Srbecky, M van Vessem, HC van Beeren and MC Platvoet-Ter Schiphorst

BACKGROUND: Iodine deficiency and endemic goiter have been reported in the past in The Netherlands, especially in the southeast. OBJECTIVE: To evaluate iodine intake and thyroid size in Dutch schoolchildren, contrasting those living in a formerly iodine-deficient region in the east (Doetinchem) with those living in an iodine-sufficient region in the west (Amsterdam area). DESIGN: Cross-sectional survey of 937 Dutch schoolchildren aged 6--18 years, of whom 390 lived in the eastern and 547 in the western part of the country. METHODS: Thyroid size was assessed by inspection and palpation as well as by ultrasound. Iodine intake was evaluated by questionnaires on dietary habits and by measurement of urinary iodine concentration. RESULTS: Eastern and western regions were similar with respect to median urinary iodine concentration (15.7 and 15.3 microg/dl, NS, Mann-Whitney U test), goiter prevalence by inspection and palpation (0.8 and 2.6%, P=0.08, chi-squared test), and thyroid volumes. The P97.5 values of thyroid volumes per age and body surface area group were all lower than the corresponding sex-specific normative WHO reference values. Iodized salt was not used by 45.7% of households. Daily bread consumption was five slices by boys and four slices by girls. Weekly milk consumption was 3 liters by boys and 2 liters by girls. Seafish was consumed once monthly. From these figures we calculated a mean daily iodine intake of 171 microg in boys and 143 microg in girls, in good agreement with the measured median urinary concentration of 16.7 microg/dl in boys and 14.5 microg/dl in girls. The sex difference in iodine excretion is fully accounted for by an extra daily consumption of one slice of bread (20 microg I) and one-seventh of a liter of milk (8.3 microg I) by boys. Thyroid volume increases with age, but a steep increase by 41% was observed in girls between 11 and 12 years, and by 55% in boys between 13 and 14 years, coinciding with peak height velocity. Girls have a larger thyroid volume at the ages of 12 and 13 years, but thyroid volume is larger in boys as of the age of 14 years. CONCLUSIONS: (1) Iodine deficiency disorders no longer exist in The Netherlands. (2) Bread consumption remains the main source of dietary iodine in The Netherlands; the contribution of iodized table salt and seafish is limited. (3) The earlier onset of puberty in girls renders their thyroid volume larger than in boys at the age of 12--13 years, but boys have a larger thyroid volume as of the age of 14 years.

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F Delange, G Benker, Ph Caron, O Eber, W Ott, F Peter, J Podoba, M Simescu, Z Szybinsky, F Vertongen, P Vitti, W Wiersinga and V Zamrazil


Up to 1992, most European countries used to be moderately to severely iodine deficient. The present study aimed at evaluating possible changes in the status of iodine nutrition in 12 European countries during the past few years. Thyroid volume was measured by ultrasonography in 7599 schoolchildren aged 7–15 years in one to fifteen sites in The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Poland, the Czech and Slovak Republics, Hungary and Romania. The concentrations of urinary iodine were measured in 5709 of them. A mobile unit (ThyroMobil van) equipped with a sonographic device and facilities for the collection of urine samples visited all sites in the 12 countries. All ultrasounds and all urinary iodine assays were performed by the same investigators. The status of iodine nutrition in schoolchildren has markedly improved in many European countries and is presently normal in The Netherlands, France and Slovakia. It remains unchanged in other countries such as Belgium. There is an inverse relationship between urinary iodine and thyroid volume in schoolchildren in Europe. Goiter occurs as soon as the urinary iodine is below a critical threshold of 10 μg/dl. Its prevalence is up to 10 to 40% in some remote European areas. This work produced updated recommendations for the normal volume of the thyroid measured by ultrasonography as a function of age, sex and body surface area in iodine-replete schoolchildren in Europe. This study proposes a method for a standardized evaluation of iodine nutrition on a continental basis, which could be used in other continents.

European Journal of Endocrinology 136 180–187

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Z Szybinski, F Delange, A Lewinski, J Podoba, M Rybakowa, R Wasik, L Szewczyk, B Huszno, F Golkowski, E Przybylik-Mazurek, M Karbownik, T Zak, J Pantoflinski, M Trofimiuk and I Kinalska

BACKGROUND: Iodine prophylaxis in Poland started in 1935 and has been interrupted twice: by World War II and in 1980 for economic reasons. Epidemiological surveys carried out after the Chernobyl accident in 1989 as well as in 1992/1993 and in 1994 as a 'ThyroMobil' study, revealed increased prevalence of goitre in children and adults. Ninety per cent of Poland was classified as an area of moderate iodine deficiency, and 10%, in the seaside area, as mild iodine deficiency territory. Iodine prophylaxis based on iodisation of household salt was introduced again in 1986 as a voluntary model and in 1997 as a mandatory model with 30+/-10 mg KI/kg salt. OBJECTIVE: The evaluation of the obligatory model of iodine prophylaxis in schoolchildren from the same schools in 1994 and 1999. METHODS: Thyroid volume was determined by ultrasonography. Ioduria in casual morning urine samples was measured using Sandell-Kolthoff's method, within the framework of the ThyroMobil study. RESULTS: Goitre prevalence decreased from 38.4 to 7% and urinary iodine concentration increased from 60.4 to 96.2 microg/l mean values between 1994 and 1999. In four schools the prevalence of goitre diminished below 5%. In 1999, 70% of children excreted over 60 microg I/l, and 36% over 100 microg I/l, whereas in 1994 the values were 44 and 13% respectively. CONCLUSION: The present findings indicate that iodine prophylaxis based only on iodised household salt is highly effective.