Widely known for its benefits for thyroid function, iodine is an essential mineral that has powerful antimicrobial properties and helps regulate thyroid hormones that contribute to metabolism and overall human health. We’ll talk more about the potential health benefits of iodine and why it’s essential in your diet.
Iodine is an essential mineral or element used by the human body to maintain normal thyroid function and metabolism. Iodine, also known as iodide, is commonly found in food and is widely found in iodized salt. Since iodine is essential, it must be obtained through dietary sources or supplements. Severe iodine deficiency causes multiple abnormalities leading to hypothyroidism, endemic goiter and cretinism, endemic mental retardation, decreased fertility, prenatal death, and increased infant mortality (R).
First, iodine plays a vital role in thyroid health. Your thyroid is located at the base of your neck and helps regulate thyroid function, which is critical for overall metabolism, heart health, and more. To function properly, the thyroid absorbs small amounts of iodine and produces thyroid hormones. An underactive or underactive thyroid can lead to hypothyroidism. This is not usually present in most western diets, considering the iodized salt content of foods and too much iodine can also negatively affect thyroid health.
The thyroid gland contains two iodine-containing hormones, T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine). The role of the thyroid is to convert iodine into these hormones. Cells in the thyroid combine iodine with the amino acid tyrosine to form T3 and T4, which are then released into the blood. All cells in the body depend on T3 and T4 to regulate their metabolism (R).
Research shows that iodine is an integral component of brain development. The exact mechanism by which iodine affects the brain is unknown, but researchers believe it involves gene expression. Many brain structures and systems appear to be affected by iodine deficiency, including areas such as the hippocampus, microstructures such as myelin, and neurotransmitters.
A nonrandomized intervention study starting iodine supplementation (200 µg KI/day) at 4–6 or 12–14 weeks of gestation or after delivery found that delayed iodine supplementation by mothers increased the risk of neurocognitive delays in their offspring (R)
During pregnancy, it has been found that 50% more iodine is required to meet the needs of a developing fetus. An epidemiological study assessed whether mild iodine deficiency during early pregnancy is associated with adverse effects on children’s cognitive development. They analyzed mother-child pairs from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) cohort by measuring urinary iodine concentrations in 1040 first-trimester pregnant women. The relationship between maternal iodine status and children’s IQ at 8 years and reading ability at 9 years was assessed.
Children with mild to moderate iodine deficiency were more likely to have the lowest scores on verbal IQ, reading accuracy, and reading comprehension compared with children with adequate iodine intake during pregnancy (R).
Iodine deficiency can lead to many life-altering adverse effects. Iodine levels below 10-20 mcg/day may lead to iodine deficiency and lead to hypothyroidism and goiter. Thyroid defects during pregnancy can lead to a myriad of health problems, including neurological deficits in brain development and fetal development.
Since iodine is an essential mineral, it’s important to get it from your diet or supplements.
Iodine is an essential and important mineral that plays an important role in thyroid health. Without it, you are at risk for several adverse effects and negative health consequences. Iodine deficiency has been rare in the United States since the introduction of iodized salt, but some groups are at risk, such as pregnant women, vegetarians and people who strictly limit their intake of iodized salt. Iodized salt is important for normal thyroid function and iodine deficiency can be easily avoided with a proper functional diet.
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