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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Penn State: Examines Non-iodized Salt Consumption to Improve Nutrition and Maternal, Child Health

Iodine aids in metabolic functions and is used by the thyroid gland to make hormones that spur growth and cognitive development. An iodine deficiency can lead to detrimental outcomes for pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and their babies resulting in pregnancy-related complications, thyroid problems, and developmental abnormalities.

One way to combat deficiencies is to fortify table salt with iodine. However, many developing countries do not have universal access to iodized salt and fall below recommended guidelines that support universal salt iodization (USI) rates of 90 percent or above.

A Penn State study, led by PhD in epidemiology student Mr. Djibril Ba, sheds light on how access to iodized salt in parts of Africa could improve nutrition, as well as maternal and fetal outcomes.

The research — “Non-iodized salt consumption among women of reproductive age in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA): A population-based study” — identifies 11 regions and examines the dietary habits of more than 100,000 women from 2015 to 2018. In each area, cooking salt was tested for iodine.

The results reveal that the highest rate (29.5 percent) of non-iodized salt consumption is in Senegal, while the lowest is less than 1 percent in Rwanda. Overall, 15- to 24-year olds are more likely to use non-iodized salt. Poverty and low literacy rates contribute to non-iodized salt consumption among women living in these areas.

Increased adherence to USI guidelines, along with better access to iodized salt and public awareness campaigns about iodized salt could prevent iodine deficiencies and improve outcomes for women and their offspring.

For this study, Mr. Ba is joined by Penn State PhD in epidemiology student Dr. Paddy Ssentongo and public health sciences professors, Drs. Kristen Kjerulff, Duanping Liao and Ping Du.

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