Salt for Health

Importance of Iodine in our Diet

Iodine deficiency is an important health problem throughout the world. Globally, 2 billion people are at a risk of Iodine Deficiency diseases (IDD) due to insufficient iodine intake. However, in India the entire population stands a risk due to deficiency of iodine in the soil and consequently the food derived from it (1).

Why do we need Iodine?

Iodine is a trace element which is needed to carry out proper functioning and development of our body through the thyroid gland. In our body, approximately 70% to 80% of iodine is located in the thyroid gland and is used to make thyroid hormones. Iodine from food is absorbed by the thyroid gland to help produce thyroid hormones which are responsible for regulating many functions in our body such as

  • Breakdown of fat,
  • Body temperature,
  • Growth,
  • Reproduction,
  • Muscle and nerve function
  • Heart rate (3).

Implications of Iodine Deficiency

Iodine deficiency impairs thyroid function leading to either increase in the size of thyroid gland (also known as goiter) or hypothyroidism (under active thyroid gland leading to low thyroid hormone production). Hence people who suffer from hypothyroidism tend to gain weight or have difficult time losing weight, feel tired and lazy and tend to feel cold very easily.

During pregnancy, Iodine deficiency can prove dangerous for both the mother and the baby.

  1. Severe iodine deficiency during pregnancy can lead to miscarriages, still birth and preterm delivery (2). Research suggests that out of every 100 miscarriages, 6 are associated with thyroid hormone deficiency (4).
  2. It also plays a huge role in development of mental retardation, low intelligence, and problems with growth, speech and hearing in children.
  3.  In the most severe case, an underactive thyroid gland due to IDD can lead to permanent mental and growth retardation in children (also known as cretinism).  Iodine is now recognized as the most common cause of preventable brain damage in the world (3).

Prevention

So how does one prevent this? Since our body doesn’t naturally make iodine, our diet plays an essential role in providing us with the recommended dietary allowance (RDA). For adult men and women, the RDA is 150mcg/day whereas that for pregnant women is 250mcg/ day (3). Iodine is found in variety of food, but is most concentrated in foods from the ocean. The World Health Organization recommends including iodine rich food such as seafood, dairy product, eggs and some meat to meet the RDA. However, for parts of world away from the ocean or have iodine-deficient soils, and for people who are vegetarian iodized salt can come to rescue and help prevent its deficiency. ½ tsp of iodized salt contains as much as 200mcg of iodine which can help you fulfil your entire day’s iodine requirement.

So how does one prevent this? Since our body doesn’t naturally make iodine, our diet plays an essential role in providing us with the recommended dietary allowance (RDA). For an adult men and women, the RDA is 150mcg/day whereas that for pregnant women is 250mcg/ day (3). Iodine is found in variety of food, but is most concentrated in foods from the ocean. The World Health Organization recommends including iodine rich food such as seafood, dairy product, eggs and some meat to meet the RDA. However, for parts of world away from the ocean or have iodine-deficient soils, and for people who are vegetarian they should include iodized salt in their diet (unless otherwise restricted) (4).

Although not known, Iodine plays a critical role in development and functioning of human body.  It is one of the micronutrients like salt, which although required in small amounts can have serious implications if not taken in the recommended amounts. Such serious health problems could be avoided by simply including iodine rich foods and adding a pinch of your favorite iodized salt.

References

  1. Chandrakant, S. Pandav et.all (2013), Iodine Deficiency Disease Control In India, Indian J. Med, 138 pp 418-433
  2. Daniel Glinoer (2007), The Importance of Iodine Nutrition during Pregnancy. Public Health Nutrition, 10, 99 1542-1546
  3. Mahan, Kathleen.L (2012) Krause’s Food and the Nutrition Care Process, St. Louis, Missouri: El Sevier
  4. www.thyroid.org

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