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Are You Getting Enough Iodine?

Apr. 4, 2013|865 views
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Iodine is a nutrient that doesn’t get much consideration. You’re probably aware that ordinary table salt is “iodized.” But did you know that before iodine salts were routinely added to sodium chloride (table salt), iodine deficiency was a serious health problem in many parts of the United States?


Iodine is an essential micronutrient. By definition, our bodies need this element to function properly, and we cannot make it. It has to come from the diet, or from supplements. Seafood and seaweed are good dietary sources, but not everyone likes these foods. The list of problems associated with iodine deficiency is long. At the top of the list is goiter; an abnormal enlargement of the thyroid gland. It’s a sign of hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid. Symptoms can include fatigue, weight gain and many other unpleasant side effects. 


The thyroid is located in the neck, beneath the Adam’s apple. It produces two important hormones that help regulate metabolism, among other things. These hormones are proteins that incorporate iodine into their structures. It’s estimated that up to one billion people around the world are iodine deficient. The deficiency is the leading cause of mental retardation.


For reasons that are not entirely clear, Americans’ levels of iodine have been declining since the early 1970s. This may be due, in part, to doctors’ efforts to convince people to cut back on salt intake. Too much salt in the diet is linked to high blood pressure among some people. Another culprit may be the popularity of sea salt. Sea salt is harvested from seawater, and it’s very trendy. But unlike ordinary table salt, iodide is not added to sea salt in most cases. If you suspect you may be low on iodine, consider adding seafood to your diet, or switching back to good old iodized table salt. 


Delange F. The disorders induced by iodine deficiency. Thyroid. 1994 Spring;4(1):107-28.


Hollowell JG, Staehling NW, Hannon WH, Flanders DW, Gunter EW, Maberly GF, et al. Iodine nutrition in the United States. Trends and public health implications: iodine excretion data from National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys I and III (1971-1974 and 1988-1994) J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1998 Oct;83(10):3401-8.


Pearce EN, Andersson M, Zimmermann M. Global Iodine Nutrition - Where do we stand in 2013? Thyroid. 2013 Mar 9. [Epub ahead of print]


Pearce EN. National trends in iodine nutrition: is everyone getting enough? Thyroid. 2007 Sep;17(9):823-7.

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