The iodine intake of pregnant women and nursing mothers is most likely lower than required. This is according to a research report of a project carried out at the Healthcare Centre in Fjell, a municipality outside Bergen, Norway.

The iodine intake of about 100 pregnant and breast-feeding women was studied by Camilla Fløysvik Seldal as part of her MSc project. The participants filled out a food frequency questionnaire on certain aspects of their diet, and supplied Seldal with urine samples.

-The iodine status can be determined by measuring the concentration excreted in the urine. Our data show that the median iodine status was low during both pregnancy and three months after giving birth”, says NIFES scientist Lisbeth Dahl.

Seafood: the most important source

Iodine is an essential trace element we need to obtain from our diet and is particularly important for foetuse and infant brain development. In several countries, iodine deficiency can result in reduced mental development. A sufficient maternal intake of iodine is also important during pregnancy in order to ensure that she herself remains in good health. Seafood has a high iodine content and is the best source as long as we eat seafood several times a week. Norwegian milk and dairy products are other important sources of iodine.


Low seafood intake

A number of studies have shown that the seafood consumption of pregnant women is low. “Our results are in concurrence with this and additionally show that the consumption is even lower in women after they have given birth”, says Dahl. We recommend that both pregnant women and nursing mothers eat seafood two or three times a week and seafood spreads on their bread and sandwiches several times a week. Increased seafood consumption would improve the iodine intake, thus ensuring a sufficient iodine intake of both the mother and her nursing child during this vulnerable period.

The typical dietary pattern of the participants in our study was to eat lean fish once a week. This rate could well be doubled, and should also include oily fish. “We are currently gathering data from almost 1000 women from all over Norway in order to learn more about the seafood consumption and iodine status of pregnant women”, Lisbeth Dahl adds.


Contact: Lisbeth Dahl 

Phone:  +47 414 50 308



Project manager: Regional Centre for Child and Youth Mental Health and Child Welfare, Uni Health.

Partner: Fjell Municipality.

Financial support: Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs, University of Bergen and Meltzer Foundation.  

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