Silent iodine prophylaxis in Western Europe only partly corrects iodine deficiency; the case of Belgium

in European Journal of Endocrinology
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  • 1 International Council for Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders (ICCIDD), Brussels, Belgium.
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OBJECTIVE: Belgium is one of the Western European countries in which no program of iodine-deficiency correction using iodized salt has been implemented, in spite of well-documented mild iodine deficiency. In 1995, the median urinary iodine concentration was 55 microg/l (normal: 100-200) and the prevalence of goiter was 11% (normal: below 5%) in representative samples of schoolchildren aged 6-12 years. Based on these results, the authors of the present study and others had emphasized to health professionals and to the public the necessity for iodine supplementation. The objective of this study was to evaluate as to whether these efforts had resulted in an improvement in the status of iodine nutrition. DESIGN: We performed a national survey of the status of iodine nutrition in Belgium based on the determination of thyroid volume, obtained by ultrasonography, and urinary iodine concentrations in schoolchildren. METHODS: A mobile van equipped with an ultrasound instrument, a computer and a deep-freeze visited 23 schools selected from across the country. The sample included 2855 schoolchildren (1365 boys and 1490 girls) aged 6-12 years. RESULTS: The results show a homogeneous situation in the whole country, with a median urinary iodine concentration of 80 microg/l and a goiter prevalence of 5.7%. Urinary iodine slightly decreases with age in girls and reaches a critical value of 59 microg/l at the age of 12 years, together with a goiter prevalence of 18.4%. CONCLUSION: Iodine nutrition has improved slightly in Belgium but mild iodine deficiency continues, with public-health consequences. The improvement indicates silent iodine prophylaxis, as no official salt-iodization measures have been taken. Silent iodine prophylaxis only partly corrects iodine deficiency in Western Europe. Active measures, including the implementation of a program of salt iodization, are urgently required.


     European Society of Endocrinology