Iodine deficiency causing disorders nationwide: Survey

Kathmandu, January 4:

43 per cent Nepalis do not take adequate amount of iodine

Around 43 per cent of the population does not consume adequate amounts of iodine. This segment is vulnerable to physical and mental disorders due to iodine deficiency.

The recent National Demographic Health Survey, conducted by the Department of Health Services, stated that only 53 per cent of the country’s households consume enough amounts of iodine, although 94 per cent of the population use iodised salt.

Experts say not consuming the right amount of salt can lead to Iodised Deficiency Disorder, which gives rise to problems like goitre, hypothyroidism and reduced mental function.

It also increases the risk of stillbirth and infant deaths and is the leading cause behind mental retardation. Iodine deficiency also reduces a person’s IQ by 10 to 15 IQ points.

“Salt is the only source of iodine in the country, the packets with the ‘two child logo’ have iodine fortification in adequate amounts and its consumption is the only way to prevent iodine deficiency,” said Dr Yasho Vardhan Pradhan, director of Child Health Division (CHD), Department of Health Services.

“Many people either do not consume the ‘two child logo’ brand of salt or they do not store it properly,” Raj Kumar Pokharel, chief, nutrition section CHD, said.

People need at least 100 microgram of iodine every day to fulfil the body’s iodine requirement. The ‘two child logo’ brand has 50 ppm-parts per molecule of iodine when packed, around 30 ppm when it gets to the retailers and 15 ppm at the time of consumption, which is adequate for the body.

“As people do not store salt in airtight containers, the iodine content diminishes,” Pokharel said.

During cooking, salt should be the last ingredient to be added to prevent iodine loss.

“But people add salt at the very beginning and the iodine content is reduced by the time the food is ready,” he added.

Many Tarai people use cheaper Indian salts but these do not guarantee iodine content, Pokharel said, adding: “Crystal (phoda), crushed loose or granular salts should not be used. The ‘two child logo’ brand of salt should be used instead.”

The government is celebrating February as the ‘National Iodine Month’ to raise awareness

on the use of salt with the ‘two child logo’ — which guarantees 98 per cent of the adequate iodine content.

“Iodine is necessary for a healthy population and the month is being celebrated in collaboration with the organisation concerned to make people adopt using iodised salt and prevent various health hazards, “ said Pradhan, adding the government is also launching other programmes to increase the consumption of iodine.

According to the ‘Universal Salt Iodisation’ goal, the government has two more years to make at least 90 per cent of households consume adequately iodised salt.