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Belize to measure Iodine Intake in Children Print E-mail
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Thursday, 10 May 2018 00:00

The ministries of Health and of Education, in partnership with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), United Nations Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF), and Iodine Global Network, will be working together to carry out a survey. That survey will be used to measure and report on the levels of iodine in Belizean children. Belize is one of the nine Caribbean countries participating in the “Caribbean Region Urinary Iodine and Sodium Study 2018” project.

During this survey, approximately 400 children between the ages of 6 and 12 from four primary schools in the Belize, Stann Creek, and Corozal Districts will participate. Their height, weight, and head circumference will be measured and body fluid samples will be taken for laboratory testing and analysis. Officials from both ministries involved are in communication with the selected schools, teachers, and parents to share the details of the survey.

The study will be carried out from May 7-17 2018 and will be headed by the lead investigator, Professor Michael B. Zimmermann, MD of Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Switzerland. According to the professor, “UNICEF and the ministry of health did a survey in 2015 that showed that two thirds of households in Belize were using iodized salt and one thirds was not. Iodine salt is the major source of iodine in the diet. That suggested not all households or children in Belize are getting adequate iodine. We’ll actually measure how much iodine they’re getting by measuring the iodine in the urine.” As a result of such, a urine sample will be taken from the participants of the survey. Parents need not worry as the professor describes that sample as “not very invasive”. “We’re not using any needles or anything that is going to harm the child. Urine is actually a waste product from the body. It is something very efficient and useful to see the level of iodine that’s in the child’s system. It’s nothing to be afraid of. We have our trained professional nurses that will be there and of course we welcome parents. They can feel free to come or send a guardian if they want to view.”

Iodine is a necessary nutrient needed for the functioning of the thyroid gland and brain development. It is also an essential nutrient during pregnancy and infancy. Because the body does not make iodine, it must be gotten through food. An iodine deficiency can lead to mental disabilities, goiter, and slow metabolism. Because of its necessity in brain development, a child who is mildly iodine deficient may have an IQ drop of around 3 to 5 points. The child’s attention span, memory, concentration, and overall performance are negatively affected when they are deficient in iodine.

According to Robyn Daly, Nutritionist, Ministry of Health, it is expected that Belize will have only a mild deficiency: “We don’t expect severe deficiency from our children. Why? Because we live near the Caribbean Sea, we eat a lot of sea food. Our past study had shown that 65% of homes are using iodized salt and there are many foods such as milk, eggs, yogurt, dairy products and also a couple fruits that have in iodine. I think that we do have enough consumption of foods in iodine and we’re using mostly iodized salt. The survey will confirm to us if our consumptions are right.”  She adds, “If we find deficiencies, if it’s mild to moderate they can be corrected with just a basic intervention of getting more iodine into the diet. From there we can know how severe of mild the deficiency is by a country perspective where Belize is as it pertains to children and iodine content.”

The survey samples will be sent to Switzerland where analyses will be done. The results are expected to be back in Belize in two and a half months.

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 May 2018 13:08