Iodine Deficiency – how reliable are the common signs?

Iodine deficiency is quite common in children and / or adults. Iodine is an element that is universally required.

In nature, iodine can be found in salt water and in soil, as well as elsewhere. Because of iodine’s biological importance, it is present in living organisms in higher concentration.

Iodine is found in different amounts in plants and animals but the amounts we get from plants depend upon the concentration of iodine in the soil they are grown from.

Iodine Deficiency
Iodine crystals; image source:

Iodine deficiency

Iodine deficiency leads to diminished production of thyroid hormones and simultaneously, increased TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) levels secreted by the master gland.

This may lead further in enlargement of the thyroid gland medically known as goiter. Furthermore, goiter with much iodine deficiency can also put negative impact on growth and development of the body, particularly the brain.

Substance called goitrogen that naturally occur in food can also cause goiter since it hinders the absorption and utilization of iodine. People eating such foods may be at risk of developing iodine deficiency.

Some of the foods containing goitrogens include cabbages, turnips, grape seeds, peanuts, soy, kale, cauliflowers, broccoli, rutabaga, spuds, Indian mustards etc. Nevertheless, cooking can inactivate these substances.

Signs and symptoms of iodine deficiency

Common signs and symptoms of iodine deficiency are the following.

  • Cretinism, a syndrome causing mental and physical retardation [1] featuring mental deficiency, deaf mutism and hindered growth of the body resulting shortened stature
  • Hypothyroidism (reduced thyroid activity)
  • Chronic Myxedema (a severe iodine deficiency result)
  • Reduced metabolic rate
  • Biochemical alteration [2]
  • Anemia
  • Goiter
  • Puffiness of hands and face
  • Inflammation of tongue (glossitis)
  • Lethargy and unusual fatigue/exhaustion

How to prevent iodine deficiency

To meet daily requirement of iodine, iodized salt is enough. This has been supported by research that was conducted on pregnant women. Iodized source is the easiest way to provide adequate amounts of iodine that body requires regularly [3].

In addition, it is also one of the inexpensive ways to provide iodine than other supplements.

1) Iodine deficiency, more than cretinism and goiter by Verheesen RH, Schweitzer CM for Med Hypotheses. 2008 Aug 12.
2) Iodine-deficiency disorders by Zimmermann MB, Jooste PL, Pandav CS. Laboratory for Human Nutrition at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland and Division of Human Nutrition, Wageningen University, Wageningen, Netherlands.. Lancet; issue Aug 1; 2008.
3) Study on the status of nutrition in pregnant women, lactating women and babies in Yongjing, Gansu province by Wang YL, Ge PF, Wang GH, Zhang YX, Wang WH, Yao L. Gansu at Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Lanzhou 730020, China. Zhonghua Liu Xing Bing Xue Za Zhi. 2008 Mar; 29(3):258-61.


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