Do we need iodized salt?
What are the iodized salt benefits? How is it used to increase the intake of iodine?
Iodine, which is added to iodized salt, is very important to the optimal functioning of the human body.
One problem we have is a lack of iodine available in our diet. Because our body does not produce iodine naturally it must be consumed through our diet and often through supplementation. Most of the foods that we eat do not contain high amounts of iodine.
A deficiency in iodine can lead to a range of complications
These include an inability to produce the thyroid hormone. The body’s inability to produce this hormone can lead to an over enlarged thyroid gland and hyperthyroidism.
If a woman is pregnant and is deficient in iodine, the child can be born with a learning disability that can worsen in adult life. Women wishing to have children will also find that the bodies inability to produce the thyroid hormone can cause the body to stop ovulating, making it extremely difficult to fall pregnant.
Most of the world’s iodine is found in the ocean. Ensuring we include iodine rich foods in our diet is the problem for many populations across the world. Generally, we are unaware of the importance of iodine in daily functions of the body and lack of the knowledge of which foods contain iodine.
As most foods lack of iodine, it is estimated that around 40% of the total population may struggle with iodine deficiency. (1)
Lack of Iodine and Its Effects on the Body and Health
As mentioned before, iodine is used by the thyroid gland to produce hormones that control the growth and repair of the body as well as regulating metabolism.
Let’s look at some of the common symptoms of iodine deficiency.
Swelling of the neck is the first and most common symptom since the thyroid gland is located there. When the gland begins to swell we refer to what has formed as a goitre. This occurs as a result of the gland overworking because of the lack of iodine. As the gland overworks it begins to grow until a goitre eventually forms. (2)
Fatigue and weakness is another tell-tale sign of a deficiency in iodine. Research has recently found that 4 out of 5 people with low iodine levels experience this symptom. Because the thyroid gland regulates energy levels in the body this comes as no surprise. (3)
The effect that low iodine levels have on brain functioning is a major factor of concern since thyroid hormones are largely responsible for the proper development of the brain. Therefore, if you experience memory loss or the inability to perform certain tasks, this may be a result of iodine deficiency. (4)
One of the functions of the thyroid glands is to regulate the body’s growth. When these important hormones are not produced it can result in hair loss as well as dry/flaky skin. These are tell-tell signs of a deficiency and if experienced one should immediately go for tests for a proper diagnosis. (5)
Pregnancy complications can often be attributed to low iodine levels. The unborn child is fed vitamins and minerals via the mother, therefore if the baby is receiving low levels of iodine then it could have serious implication for the development of the baby. Babies also receive iodine through breastfeeding. For pregnant women, it is imperative to keep iodine at sufficient levels in order to supply both her own and her baby’s needs. (6)
Iodized Salt – How Important is it for Your Health?
Let’s look at the science behind the use of iodine in the body. T3 is the thyroid hormone, containing three iodine molecules. The deficiency occurs when there is not enough iodine in the blood to produce these molecules and the symptoms mentioned above develop.
Therefore, an increase in the consumption of iodine is required. Foods high in iodine include seaweed, fish, yoghurt, egg and dried prunes. Some of these are not common to everyone diet for a number of reasons. The growing trend of veganism has made it even harder to meet the body’s daily requirement of iodine (7).
One solution to this lies in iodized table salt. In the past, this has been used extensively across the world by regulatory bodies. To prevent high levels of iodine deficiency iodizes salt was introduced. This prevented iodine deficiency in many populations for many years.
How Much Iodized Salt Do You Need to Consume Daily?
The thyroid requires a mere 150 mcg daily of iodine in order to function normally (8).
There is a balance that must be struck between getting just enough iodized salt without it damaging your health. In more recent years research has shown that traditional table salt can adversely affect your health.
Too much table salt can increase blood pressure and cause weight gain. Therefore, if you are at risk of heart problems you should balance your iodine intake by both iodized salt as well as foods that are rich in iodine. If you are someone who enjoys high-intensity exercise, you should also watch your salt levels. You can lose large amounts of iodine while exercising through sweat. Therefore, you must ensure that you are replacing it through proper diet management and possibly even supplementing with iodine.
How Much Is Too Much Iodine?
Even though iodine is essential, too much can also be detrimental to one’s health. Excess iodine can be damaging to your thyroid functioning and, if you are pregnant, can affect your unborn child. You would need to be eating over 24 grams of salt for your iodine intake to reach dangerous levels. Recommended daily iodine allowances are well documented.
It is now common to see people buying and consuming expensive natural sea salts. While these colorful salts do contain a lot of important minerals it is likely they will contain less than iodized salt (9).
If you want to supplement your iodine intake using table salt, you should do your research to ensure iodine is present and that your salt intake is not too high.
Taking natural salts and table salts have different effects on the body.
Still, one sure way to get iodine is through the common iodized sea salt found in most kitchens (10).
Are You Getting Enough Iodine?
Different tests are available to show whether you are deficient in iodine.
Look out for the symptoms and if you have any concerns, seek out the help from a medical professional.
Iodine-rich foods should be part of a well-rounded diet. You should not struggle to maintain healthy iodine levels with these included, however, if you are iodine deficient to begin with, you may need to boost your levels before relying on diet alone to meet your iodine needs.
Using the common iodized table salt will provide iodine if are looking for a cheap method of supplementation.
As with all supplementation do your research and be aware of unwanted side effects!