The fashion for alternatives to cow’s milk, such as soya, almond and coconut drinks, is putting women at risk of giving birth to children with low IQs, a professor will warn at a conference next month.
Researchers at Surrey University have found that plant-based milks, which also include oat, rice and hazelnut drinks, have about only 3% of the concentrations of iodine that are in cow’s milk.
Earlier research by Surrey University, published in the Lancet, found women with even a mild iodine deficiency in pregnancy were at greater risk of having children with low IQ and reading scores.
Margaret Rayman, professor of nutritional medicine at the university, will issue the warning at the Food: the Future Medicine conference at the College of Medicine next month.
Rayman said: “These replacement milks are lower in calories and have become very popular. The developing brain needs iodine; it is required for thyroid hormones. Women should ideally enter pregnancy with good iodine stores and continue to consume a source of iodine if breastfeeding.”
Public Health England said: “Dairy isn’t the only source of iodine in the diet — we can get it from other foods such as cereal, grains, seafood and shellfish. Most people, including pregnant women, should get all the iodine they need by eating a varied and balanced diet.”