Although scientists have yet to determine the exact origin of autism, some research has shown a potential link between iodine deficiency and autism. Because of this, many alternative health care practitioners are looking at methods that involve nutrition, detoxification and iodine supplementation. Over the past two decades, the incidence of autism spectrum disorder rates among children has skyrocketed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates one out of every 88 children in the U.S. will display autistic symptoms. This is astonishingly high.
The Link between Iodine Deficiency and Autism
Proper thyroid activity doesn’t happen without adequate iodine levels. The hormones produced in a well-functioning thyroid support metabolism and normal immune health. There is direct a link between the underproduction of thyroxin in the thyroid and weakened neural connections in the brain.[4, 5] Some have questioned if mothers with lowered iodine levels are more likely to produce offspring with neurological imbalances such as ADHD and autism.
Studies and Research
Children with autism, and their mothers, consistently have lower iodine levels. The American Thyroid Association urges pregnant mothers to take iodine supplements, one reason is to ensure the mental health of their offspring.
Research conducted by James Adams at Arizona State University included hair analyses on 51 autistic children, 29 mothers of autistic children, and a control group. This study found that iodine deficiency in mothers could be a cause or exacerbating factor for autism. The study also found that children with autism spectrum disorder had up to 45% lower levels of iodine than the control children. According to a NHANES survey, average iodine levels in the US population are 50% less during the period between 1988-1994.[1, 7]
An Italian study found that women from an iodine deficient area of the country had reduced levels of thyroid hormones when compared to women who lived in iodine rich areas. Researchers hypothesized “the imbalance of maternal thyroid hormone homeostasis during pregnancy was a consequence of endemic iodine deficiency may be responsible for the impaired psychoneurological development observed in children from that area. Appropriate iodine and/or thyroxine prophylaxis to women in that area may prevent the neurobehavioral, cognitive, and motor compromise of that population.”
- Hamza RT, Hewedi DH, Sallam MT. Iodine deficiency in Egyptian autistic children and their mothers: relation to disease severity. Arch Med Res. 2013 Oct ;44(7):555-61. doi: 10.1016/j.arcmed.2013.09.012. Epub 2013 Oct 10.
- Eunice Kenndy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. How many people are affected by autism spectrum disorder (ASD)? Last reviewed: December 18, 2013
- Nussey S, Whitehead S. Endocrinology: An Integrated Approach. Oxford: BIOS Scientific Publishers; 2001. Chapter 3, The thyroid gland.
- Delange F. The role of iodine in brain development. Proc Nutr Soc. 2000 Feb;59(1):75-9.
- Delange F. [Disorders due to iodine deficiency] [Article in French]. Acta Clin Belg. 1990;45(6):394-411.
- Adams JB, Holloway CE, George F, Quig D. Analyses of toxic metals and essential minerals in the hair of Arizona children with autism and associated conditions, and their mothers. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2006 Jun;110(3):193-209.
- J. B. Adams, C. E. Holloway, F. George, D. Quig. Analyses of toxic metals and essential minerals in the hair of Arizona children with autism and associated conditions, and their mothers. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2006 Jun;110(3):193-209.
- Leung AM, Pearce EN, Braverman LE. Iodine Nutrition in Pregnancy and Lactation. Endocrinology and Metabolism Clinics of North America. 2011;40(4):765-777. doi:10.1016/j.ecl.2011.08.001.
- F. Vermigllo, V. P. Lo Presti, G. Scaffidi Argentina, M. D. Finocchiaro, D. Gullo, S. Squatrito, F. Trimarchi. Maternal hypothyroxinaemia during the first half of gestation in an iodine deficient area with endemic cretinism and related disorders. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 1995 Apr;42(4):409-15.