Iodine: Why It Is Important And How To Get It In Your Diet?

Iodine Facts

Iodine An Important MicronutrientIodine, discovered in 1811, is a trace element and an essential micronutrient. (1) Approximately 80 percent of the body’s iodine content is found in the thyroid gland, where its sole purpose is to form a significant portion of two important hormones that greatly affect the body’s rate of metabolism and regulate normal growth and development. While the total quality of iodine needed in an entire lifetime is little more than a teaspoon, iodine cannot be stored and must be ingested regularly to support thyroid hormone production. Because very small amount of iodine are needed on a regular basis to prevent irreversible conditions caused by iodine deficiency, table salt is iodized to help supplement dietary intake.* (2)

Iodine An Important Micronutrient

Iodine is absorbed in both organic and inorganic forms by the body in the stomach and first portion of the small intestine. (93) Sufficient amounts of dietary iodine can be found in:

  • water
  • Oysters
  • fish (especially cod and cod liver oil, halibut, salmon, and trout)
  • beef and pork
  • eggs
  • spinach, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, peas, potatoes, tomatoes
  • bread
  • butter, cheese, and milk
  • apples and cranberries

While iodine is known at present to perform the single function of forming the two thyroid hormones thyroxine and triiodothyronine, iodine insufficiency can trigger many serious (some irreversible) disease states and conditions when the production of these hormones becomes compromised. The National Research Council recommends that adults may require slightly higher amounts of iodine in their diets. (4) A normal, well balanced diet will satisfy the body’s iodine requirements.*

Increases Endocrine Efficiency

The thyroid hormones comprised in part by iodine atoms, boost the rate at which the body’s cells use oxygen and organic molecules to produce energy and heat. They also improve cardiovascular activity by causing the vascular system to become more sensitive to nerve impulses, thereby facilitating increased cardiac output and heart rate appropriate to the situation. The thyroid hormones directly affect the maturing and day-to-day well being of both the skeletal and central nervous systems. They stimulate many different kinds of cells to perform their appropriate tasks, including protein synthesis. These hormones pay a key role in human growth rate, water balance, and numerous physiological processes.* (5)

Reduces the Incidence of Physical and Mental Retardation Caused by Iodine Deficiency Disorders

The thyroid hormone thyroxine contains four atoms of iodine per molecule and is vital to the normal growth and development – both physically and mentally – of all young animals and humans. If a child has an iodine deficiency disorder and the thyroid gland fails to produce or secrete sufficient amount of thyroxine, he or she could suffer varying forms of cretinism (arrested physical and mental development). These children can grow stunted physically, and appear sluggish, mentally retarded, or even unable to move normally, speak, or hear.* (4)

Improves Reproductive Capability

For many years, animals raised in low-iodine regions showed increased sterility. In these same areas of the country where the iodine content in the soil is low, young animals were born with different skeletal deformities and limitations. The numbers of these reproductive problems decreased significantly with iodine supplementation. Likewise, some women developed goiters during their pregnancies, pointing to greater need for the thyroid hormones during this period.*

Reduces the Incidence of Endemic Goiter Development

An endemic goiter is an enlargement of the thyroid gland caused by inadequate iodine intake. It can range in size anywhere from an invisible but palpable nodule all the way up to the size of a large male fist. (6). The size of the goiter is proportional to the amount of iodine deficiency. While goiters are mainly a problem only in developing countries at this time, they can still be seen in some parts of Europe. Goiters are not major medical problems, unless they become large enough to compress the airway or esophagus.*

  1. Mosby’s Medical, Nursing & Allied Health Dictionary, 5th Edition. Mosby – Year Book Inc. 1998. p. 871
  2. Human Physiology and Mechanisms of disease. Sixth Edition. Guyton, Arthur C. MD; Hall, John E Ph.D. 1997. W.B. Saunders Co. pps 607-614
  3. the Nutrition and Health Encyclopedia. Second Edition. Russell, Percy Ph.D.; Tver, David F. 1989. Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, p 284
  4. Principles of Nutrition. Second Edition. Wilson, Eva D. et al. 1965. John Wiley and Sons Inc. New York. Pp 165-77
  5. Human anatomy and Physiology. Third Edition. Carola, Robert, et al. 1995. McGraw-Hill, Inc. p 559
  6. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. Seventh Edition. Shils, Maurice E. MD, Sc.D; Young, Vernon R. Ph.D. 1988. Lea & Febiger. pps 227-36
  7. McDowell, L., Parkey, D. Iodine deficiencies result in need for supplementation. Journal: Feedstuffs. Carol Stream IL. Miller Publishing co. October 9, 1995. V. 67(42);p15, 18
  8. Delange, F. Iodine deficiency in Europe. Cas Lek Cesk. 1995. Jan 18;135(2):35-43
  9. Hetzel, B.S. the iodine deficiency disorders. Journal: NATO-ASI-Ser-ser-A-Life-Sci. New York, Plenum Press. 1993. V. 241:pps 25-31
  10. Delange, F. Screening for congenital hypothyroidism used as an indictor of the degree of iodine deficiency and of its control. Thyroid. 1998. Dec;8(12):1185-92
  11. Delange, F. , Nicorandil: The disorder induced by iodine deficiency. Thyroid 1994. Spring;4(1):107-28
  12. Pennington, J.A.T. Iodine. Journal: Trace minerals in foods. Edited by Kenneth T. Smith. New York: M. Dekker. C1988. pps. 249-89
  13. Delange, F. Requirements of iodine in humans. Journal: NATO-ASI-Ser-ser-A-Life-Sci. New York, NY. Plenum Press. 1993. Vol 241:pps 5-15.

*The statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration.

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