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Sufficient intake of iodine and folic acid are important for pregnant and breastfeeding women

15/2014, 19.06.2014

The BfR has published updated leaflets for doctors

Women who are planning on getting pregnant as well as pregnant and breastfeeding women should ensure that their intake of iodine and folate / folic acid is sufficient. This is the message of an updated leaflet for physicians published by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) entitled "Iodine, Folate / Folic Acid and Pregnancy - Recommendations for Medical Practitioners". "Apart from a balanced diet with saltwater fish, milk, fruit, vegetables and whole grain products, food supplements containing iodine and folic acid are important for pregnant and breastfeeding women to prevent deficiencies and to minimise the risk for neural tube defects", says BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. "However, women should seek medical advice before taking such supplements."

Iodine is one of the essential trace elements and needed to regulate important metabolic processes. In severe cases, iodine deficiency can lead to miscarriage, deformity, impairment of growth, and retardation of skeletal maturation and brain development in the unborn child. Even while breastfeeding, the mother should ensure an adequate iodine intake, since both her own iodine needs and that of the child must be met.

To ensure sufficient iodine intake, the BfR recommends that mothers regularly consume saltwater fish and dairy products, and that they only use iodised salt. In addition, they should preferably use bread and meat products made with iodised salt. However, the iodine intake achieved thereby usually still does not meet the increased need during the pregnancy and breastfeeding period. This means that over and above their iodine-containing diet, pregnant and breastfeeding women should, following consultation with their doctor, take between 100 and 150 μg of iodine per day in the form of iodine tablets.

Since Germany is an iodine-deficient country due to its geological conditions, iodine deficiency is common among pregnant and breastfeeding women. Certain individual living conditions and behaviour patterns such as age, smoking, the use of oral contraceptives or a vegan diet can make iodine deficiency more likely.

Folate is a water-soluble B-vitamin and is required for all cell division and growth processes. While folates are naturally found in foods, folic acid denotes the synthetic form used in food supplements and in fortified foods. Women planning on getting pregnant should - even if they eat a diet rich in folates - take 400 μg of folic acid per day in the form of tablets, starting no later than four weeks before the pregnancy and continuing until the end of the first third of the pregnancy. This can reduce the risk of neural tube defects in the child. Information on this and the recommendation to take supplements should be an integral part of medical advice before and during pregnancy.

Even after the first third of the pregnancy, pregnant and breastfeeding women have an increased need for folate. In order to reach the recommendations for dietary intake, a varied diet and careful preparation of foods are necessary. Foods especially rich in folate are liver, green vegetables such as spinach and broccoli, legumes, wheat germs, yeast, yoke, whole grain products as well as citrus fruit and juices.

The leaflet “Iodine, Folic Acid and Pregnancy - Advice for Physicians” can be downloaded (in german) at http://www.bfr.bund.de/cm/350/jod-folat-folsaeure-und-schwangerschaft.pdf PDF-File (1.7 MB).

About the BfR

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientific institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL). It advises the Federal Government and Federal Laender on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.

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Publications - Merkblätter für Ärzte

 (1)
Date Title Size
14.05.2014
Merkblatt für Ärzte
Jod, Folat/Folsäure und Schwangerschaft - Ratschläge für die ärztliche Praxis 1.7 MB
PDF-File

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