On the day of the surprise test for maths, six-year-old Rajesh was the last to submit his papers. Yet, his scores failed to reflect the sleepless nights he spent practising. Smiling nervously, he stepped onto the playground for his games class, only to be left lagging behind everyone else for every lap of running. His friends always urged him to catch up, be it for the lessons or the exercises. But day by day, Rajesh was showing more signs of slow understanding. Without any prominent symptoms of health disorders, it was difficult to understand the reason behind his struggles. After a thorough check-up, doctors diagnosed iodine deficiency as the culprit. Soon, it was found that his family was using local non-iodised salt in their food, hence Rajesh was deprived of the must-needed growth factor – iodine.
Low IQ is a growing problem among Indian children
Unknown to many, mere lack of awareness has made iodine deficiency the silent menace in India with around 14% of the newborn and infants being affected by physical and mental retardation. In fact, if a pregnant mother fails to incorporate an adequate amount of iodine in her diet, the child is put at a grave risk of stillbirth, congenital abnormalities, stunted growth and most commonly, poor IQ.
Similar was the case for little Sania, whose parents were unaware of the necessity of iodine. Due to misconceptions about salt consumption, they were following an extremely low salt diet, leading to iodine deficiency. Since iodine happens to be the only micro-nutrient which is not found in higher proportions in food grains, fruits and vegetables, so iodised salt is the saviour. Thus, even at the age of seven, Sania had not been able to grasp normal school education, despite being provided with the best amenities.
On the other hand, five-year-old Ayush displayed signs of emotional instability, throwing mood tantrums frequently, aside from a comparatively low IQ level. Not only Sania or Ayush, but millions of other children also have low IQ in India, where the average IQ of the population stands at a deplorable 82 points.
These children are slow in math and reading
According to WHO, iodine deficiency in infancy happens to the most serious cause of mental retardation around the world, as it can cause irreparable damage of the developing brain, leading to a wide range of intellectual disabilities. A child with low IQ faces trouble to reach logical conclusions for his or her problems or understand from experiences. You may often find them repeating the same mistakes, lacking imagination and show lethargy towards fun activities as well.
A 2016 study by University of Sussex reveals that children in iodine-deficient zones of India are weaker in basic math and reading. They have an IQ less by 8-10 points than the lowest normal for their age.
A large number of babies are still at risk
In these rural belts, the deficiency stems from the lack of a balanced diet and minimum awareness. The decline in cognitive ability is also evident from the fact that the number of school attendees is much less in those districts. Girls face the worst scath. If a girl child is found with slow learning ability, the parents would never spare a second thought before stopping her education.
However, the most horrifying reality is the high infant mortality rate due to Iodine Deficiency Diseases, particularly affecting girls under the age of three. Still, even today, around 13 million newborn babies in India continue to be unprotected against IDDs.
The Logical Indian take
Low IQ is a common problem perhaps in every other home in India. But very few are aware that iodine deficiency can be the major contributor to this crisis. The Logical Indian aims to sprout awareness among more parents, so that they can curate a brighter future for their children.