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Iodine status of teenage girls on the island of Ireland

Mullan, Karen, Hamill, Lesley, Doolan, Katy, Young, Ian, Smyth, Peter, Flynn, Albert, Walton, Janette, Meharg, Andrew A., Carey, Manus, McKernan, Claire , Bell, Marcia, Black, Neil, Graham, Una, McCance, David, McHugh, Cathy, McMullan, Paul, McQuaid, Siobhan, O’Loughlin, Aonghus, Tuthill, Antoinette, Bath, Sarah C., Rayman, Margaret and Woodside, Jayne V. (2019) Iodine status of teenage girls on the island of Ireland European Journal of Nutrition. pp. 1-9.

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The trace element iodine is a vital constituent of thyroid hormones. Iodine requirements increase during pregnancy, when even mild deficiency may affect the neurocognitive development of the offspring. Urinary iodine concentration (UIC) is the means of assessing iodine status in population surveys; a median UIC of 100–199 µg/L is deemed sufficient in a non-pregnant population. Milk is the main dietary source of iodine in the UK and Ireland.


We surveyed the iodine status of 903 girls aged 14–15 years in seven sites across the island of Ireland. Urine iodine concentration was measured in spot-urine samples collected between March 2014 and October 2015. Food group intake was estimated from iodine-specific food-frequency questionnaire. Milk-iodine concentration was measured at each site in summer and winter.


The median UIC overall was 111 µg/L. Galway was the only site in the deficient range (median UIC 98 µg/L). All five of the Republic of Ireland sites had UIC ≤ 105 µg/L. In the two sites surveyed twice, UIC was lower in summer vs winter months [117 µg/L (IQR 76–165) vs 130 µg/L (IQR 91–194) (p ˂ 0.01)]. Milk samples collected from Galway and Roscommon had a lower mean iodine concentration than those from Derry/Londonderry (p ˂ 0.05). Milk intake was positively associated with UIC (p ˂ 0.001).


This is the largest survey of its kind on the island of Ireland, which currently has no iodine-fortification programme. Overall, the results suggest that this young female population sits at the low end of sufficiency, which has implications if, in future, they enter pregnancy with borderline status.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences > School of Biosciences and Medicine
Authors :
Mullan, Karen
Hamill, Lesley
Doolan, Katy
Young, Ian
Smyth, Peter
Flynn, Albert
Walton, Janette
Meharg, Andrew A.
Carey, Manus
McKernan, Claire
Bell, Marcia
Black, Neil
Graham, Una
McCance, David
McHugh, Cathy
McMullan, Paul
McQuaid, Siobhan
O’Loughlin, Aonghus
Tuthill, Antoinette
Bath, Sarah
Woodside, Jayne V.
Date : 2019
Funders : Safefood Cork, Ireland
DOI : 10.1007/s00394-019-02037-x
Copyright Disclaimer : This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in European Journal of Nutrition. The final authenticated version is available online at:
Depositing User : Clive Harris
Date Deposited : 12 Aug 2019 08:16
Last Modified : 19 Jul 2020 02:08

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