University Alliance > Growing Research Impact > Impact on policy: Sherley John

Impact on policy: Sherley John

Sherley John is in the first year of her PhD at Teesside University 

Sherley John, an Indian dentist, has begun her PhD at Teesside University to investigate whether fluoride interferes with iodine in a study – the first of its kind in the UK – which could have far-reaching implications for all, particularly women of child-bearing age. 

Fluoride can reduce tooth decay and is therefore is added either to drinking water, milk or salt in many countries – in the UK, over six million people receive optimally fluoridated water. The majority of toothpastes and mouthwash products also contain fluorides. Iodine is an important nutrient for making thyroid hormones which are required for normal growth and development. Iodine deficiency, particularly during pregnancy and early childhood may have a negative long-term impact on the brain development of the foetus and children. Iodine deficiency disorder (IDD) is still a public health issue in all continents including Europe and the World Health Organisation (WHO) has classified the UK as having mild-moderate iodine deficiency. 

There are conflicting results from previous studies that fluoride may interfere with iodine uptake and thereby affecting thyroid function. Sherley’s research will evaluate and compare iodine status and thyroid function in expectant women and newborns from fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas, to gain a better understanding of the role of fluoride on iodine status during pregnancy as only a handful of studies worldwide have reported on this issue. Despite both tooth decay and brain damage in childhood (due to iodine deficiency) being among the simplest and least expensive disease to prevent, they still remain a major public health concern in many countries worldwide. Sherley hopes that her work would provide primary evidence which could guide public health policy making, particularly for child-bearing women. 

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