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World Tibet Network News

Friday, October 16, 1998

2. Bone disorder linked to iodine deficiency

NEW YORK, Oct 15 (Reuters) -- Kashin-Beck disease, a bone disorder most
commonly found in central Asia, may be caused by chronic iodine
deficiency, researchers report.

Lack of iodine in the diet ``probably contributes to the classical
features of Kashin-Beck disease in Tibet,'' concludes an international
team of researchers led by Dr. Rodrigo Moreno-Reyes of the Universite
Libre de Bruxelles in Brussels, Belgium. Their report is published in
the October 15th issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

Kashin-Beck disease is a debilitating bone disorder which slows bone
growth and triggers a gradual stiffening of the major joints. Disease
onset typically begins at between 5 and 15 years of age, with those
afflicted having ``varying degrees of joint deformation and limited
joint mobility,'' according to the study authors.

The illness is especially prevalent in areas of central Asia and central
Africa where the usual diet often lacks two essential nutrients: iodine
and selenium. Until now, most experts have assumed that Kashin-Beck is
caused by selenium deficiency.

In their study, the Belgian-led team examined levels of both nutrients
in the blood and urine of 575 children, aged 5 to 15, from 12 Tibetan
villages. About half of the children suffered from Kashin-Beck disease.

They found that two thirds of all of the children ``had urinary iodine
values... indicative of severe iodine deficiency.'' All of the subjects
were deficient for selenium.

However, their analysis identified iodine deficiency -- but not a lack
of selenium -- as the major risk factor associated with the illness. The
authors also point out that ``Kashin-Beck disease does not occur in
every selenium-deficient area in China.''

They believe that iodine deficiency impairs thyroid activity, which in
turn slows bone growth and causes joints to stiffen.

``Kashin-Beck disease and iodine-deficiency disorders remain major
public health problems in rural Tibet,'' write the researchers, who urge
that ``iodine-supplementation programs (in affected regions) should be
extended without delay.''

SOURCE: The New England Journal of Medicine 1998;339:1112-1120.

KEY WORDS AND PHRASES:  Iodine and Bone, Iodine, Iodine deficiency, Kashin-Beck Disease,Dr. Rodrigo Moreno-Reyes,

Univeriste Libre de Bruxelles, The New England Journal of Medicine 1998;339:1112-1120

Copyright 2006 Dr. Brice E. Vickery

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