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Iodine ~ for health

Published August 11th, 2009 in Minerals & Vitamins

Iodine ~ for health

By Tammera J. Karr, MSHN, CNC, CNW, CNH  2009©

Approximately 1.5 billion people, one-third of the population, live in areas of iodine deficiency as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Approximately 1.5 billion people, one-third of the population, live in areas of iodine deficiency as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO). Iodine deficiency has been identified as a significant public health problem in 129 countries.  Iodine deficiency can result in mental retardation, goiter, increased child and infant mortality, infertility, hypothyroidism, impaired immune function, fibrocystic breasts, cancers of the thyroid, breast, prostate, endometrial, ovarian and uterus. The WHO has recognizes that iodine deficiency is the world’s greatest single cause of preventable mental retardation.

Iodine is a relatively rare element found primarily in sea water and sea foods like kelp and fish (cod, sea bass, haddock & perch). Seaweed is the most abundant sources of iodine as the plants have the ability to concentrate the iodine collected from the ocean water. Kelp however also concentrates large quantities of other chemical and elemental contaminants like perchlorate (rocket fuel), fluoride, and bromine.

Every cell in the body utilizes iodine. The thyroid gland contains a higher concentration of iodine than any other organ in the body. Large amounts of iodine are also stored in the salivary glands, spinal fluid, gastric mucosa, breasts, ovaries, prostate and the body of the eye.

A Little History

In 1811 Bernard Courtois discovered iodine while making gunpowder. When he added sulphuric acid to his mixture, made from seaweed, a purple vapor appeared – iodes is Greek for violet.  The first medical use for iodine was confermed in 1824 by Jean-Baptiste Boussingault, he found having people drinking iodine rich water found at silver mining sites prevented goiter.  In the early 1900’s a high prevalence of goiter developed in the states bordering the Great Lakes. In 1924 a study in the state of Michigan showed 40% of the school age children had enlarged thyroid glands; iodized salt was introduced and by 1928 a 75% reduction in goiter was observed. Today the WHO actively promotes the use of iodized salt for the prevention of goiter.

Why are we low in Iodine?

You may think that iodized salt has eliminated deficiencies in the United States; however the data does not support this conclusion. In the last 30 years studies by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, show levels of iodine have dropped by over 50%. The decline is in all demographic groups: ethnicity, region, economic status, population density and race.

Refined salt is not the most available form for getting iodine, foods like bread do a much better job of raising serum iodine levels – or they did until the 1980’s when iodine was replaced in flour and baked goods with Bromide and the population was encouraged to go on low salt diets.  Bromide is in the halide family and all halides; fluoride, chloride, bromide, iodine compete for absorption and receptor sites.  Bromide is a toxic substance that has no therapeutic use in the human body.  Perchlorate is a substance found in nature and is a man-made substance. Perchlorate contamination of water supplies is wide spread and is another reason that iodine levels are dropping.

Individuals of Northern European ancestry seem to be more prone to iodine deficiency. This is primarily due to a generational deficiency resulting from changes in farming practices and the availability of unrefined salt and sea foods.  In the coastal areas of England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Scandinavia and France it was a common practice to collect seaweed and spread it on the fields for fertilizer. This added the essential iodine back into the soil for the grain crops, which in turn fed the animals and the population.

Iodine-Loading Test

This test is used to assess whole body sufficiency for the essential element iodine. Orthoiodosupplementation is the daily amount of the essential element iodine needed for whole body sufficiency. The test consists of ingesting 4 tablets of a solid dosage form of Lugol (Iodoral®), containing a total of 50 mg iodine/iodide.

Currently, there are three Laboratories performing the iodine/iodide loading test:

  • FFP Laboratories in Flat Rock, NC,
  • Hakala Research in Lake Wood, CO.
  • Labrix Clinical Services Inc. in Oregon City, OR.