Pass the salt: Iodine is crucial for kids’ diets

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Kids on restrictive diets, or who are extremely picky eaters, could be at risk for low iodine levels that can hinder growth and bodily function, an endocrinologist says.

For decades, iodine deficiency in children has been viewed as an issue in developing nations. Iodine, after all, is readily found in dairy and commercial bread products in the United States — and most other processed foods here contain plenty of iodized salt.

But with the rise of restricted diets used to help with conditions such as autism, parents could be instigating a scenario that seems downright outdated: Their children aren’t getting enough iodine.

“It doesn’t necessarily come up as a topic of conversation,” says Brigid Gregg, M.D., an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan. Still, she notes, “You need to have some source of iodine in your regular dietary intake.”

Which is why Gregg, also a pediatric endocrinologist at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, Mich., published a paper last month in the journal Pediatrics that detailed two respective case studies of University of Michigan patients tied to diets that unknowingly lacked sufficient iodine.

The first detailed a child on the autism spectrum. The boy, age 5, followed a gluten- and casein-free diet low in sodium. An absence of iodine, however, led him to develop a goiter.

The other case detailed a situation that might be more common to families: that of a highly picky eater who, in this instance, only would consume infant cereal, rice, beans and the occasional banana.

Concerns about eczema, meanwhile, led the family to swap cow’s milk for coconut milk. They also cooked with noniodized sea salt (neither product contains iodine). Stuck at the bottom of his percentile for weight and length, the two-year-old was admitted to the hospital.

Although both examples cited in the paper aren’t too common, all parents should discuss a child’s iodine intake with their pediatrician, Gregg says.

“You already talk about medication or symptoms,” she says. “It’s also really important to talk about diet — especially if it is a limited one.”

Source: University of Michigan Health System:

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