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Folic acid and iodine message not getting through

Kiwi women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy are not getting the message about the importance of iodine and folic acid supplementation for the development of their babies, a new study has found.

Around 52 per cent of women surveyed by University of Otago researchers meet the Ministry of Health iodine target of 150mcg daily and half follow the folic acid recommendation of 0.8mg a day, but only 38 per cent adhere to recommendations for both.

“We need to make a bigger effort to promote these recommendations and increase access to iodine and folic acid supplements – we want communities to know about these nutrients, and why they are important,” study co-author Sheila Skeaff says in a press release.

Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects in the four weeks before conception through to 12 weeks into pregnancy, and iodine, which is important for optimal foetal and infant brain development and later IQ, should be taken preconception through to breastfeeding.

Food grown in New Zealand is a poor source of iodine because our soil has low levels of the mineral, which is why supplementation is recommended. Mandatory folic acid fortification of bread overseas has led to a decrease in neural tube birth defects. In New Zealand this fortification is voluntary.

The research was published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and involved an online survey of 535 pregnant or recently pregnant women.


Date modified: January 8 2021
First published: October 2017

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