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Iodine Deficiency & Nutrition

Iodine Deficiency 

What is Iodine Deficiency?

Iodine Deficiency is the commonest worldwide cause of thyroid disorders.  A low iodine diet can cause hypothyroidism, an enlarged thyroid gland (goitre) and can affect fertility, pregnancy and neurodevelopmental disorders in newborns.

Where does it come from?

Iodine is a naturally occurring chemical element, like oxygen and iron. Iodine is present in fairly constant amounts in seawater, but its distribution over land and fresh water is uneven. In continents such as Australia and New Zealand, natural iodine levels are very low in the soils where we grow our vegetables, grains and graze livestock.

Why do we need Iodine?

Insufficient iodine in the diet results in a range of conditions known as Iodine Deficiency Disorder (IDD). Iodine deficiency is becoming an increasingly common cause of thyroid health problems in Australia.

Iodine Deficiency Disorder

Iodine Deficiency Disorder (IDD) are caused when a person does not receive enough iodine in their diet. As a result, the Thyroid Gland increases in size (development of a goitre) and hypothyroidism can occur. Diagnosis and treatment by a specialist Endocrinologist is essential to ascertain the condition of the thyroid gland and the correct treatment.

Iodine Deficiency raises important health concerns with pregnant and lactating women and the developing baby.
Iodine Deficiency is the commonest cause worldwide of preventable mental retardation.

Iodine supplementation for all women contemplating pregnancy, pregnant or lactating is recommended by the National Health Ministers Research Council, (NHMRC), with a media statement released in January 2010. Women during this period should ingest a daily pregnancy supplement, including 150 ug of iodine.

Iodine Deficiency In Australia

The Australian Thyroid Foundation (ATF), as the Consumer Advocacy Organisation for Thyroid Disorders and Iodine Deficiency, recommended by The Food Standards of Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ), support iodine deficiency research, which shows Australian school children and pregnant and breastfeeding women suffer from mild to moderate iodine deficiency. Download here.

Iodine Nutrition

What is Iodine and where does it come from?

Iodine is a naturally occurring chemical element, like oxygen and iron. Iodine is present in fairly constant amounts in seawater, but its distribution over land and fresh water is uneven. In continents such as Australia and New Zealand, natural iodine levels are very low in the soils where we grow our vegetables, grains and graze livestock.

Why do we need iodine?

Insufficient iodine in the diet results in a range of conditions known as Iodine Deficiency Disorder (IDD). Iodine deficiency is becoming an increasingly common cause of thyroid health problems in Australia.

Is iodine deficiency common?

More than 50% of children and pregnant or breastfeeding women living in Australia have been shown to be iodine deficient, and are at risk of developing thyroid disease.

What does my thyroid do?

Your thyroid gland is a critical part of your endocrine system. Its purpose is to secrete thyroid hormones that:

  • Control the metabolic rate of almost all cells in the body
  • Control the metabolism of fat and carbohydrates
  • Boost protein synthesis
  • Regulate heart rate and blood flow to organs
  • Are important for energy production and oxygen consumption in cells
  • Promote linear growth and brain development in children
  • Are needed for normal reproductive function in adults
  • Are important in bone and calcium metabolism

What happens if I don’t get enough iodine?

Everyone needs iodine in their diet for healthy thyroid function and a healthy metabolism. Hypothyroidism (see symptoms below) can be caused by a lack of iodine in the diet, which prevents the thyroid from making enough of the necessary hormones.
Iodine deficiency is the single most common cause of preventable mental retardation and brain damage in the world. The most alarming consequences of iodine deficiency occur during foetal and infant development. Maternal iodine deficiency may cause miscarriage, other pregnancy complications, such as premature delivery and infertility.

Thyroid hormones – and therefore iodine – are essential for normal development of the brain. If the foetus or newborn is not exposed to enough thyroid hormone, it may not survive or may have permanent mental retardation. Low birth weights may also result from iodine deficiency.

Iodine deficiency is a major cause of lowered IQ in children, according to leading international health authorities, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF and the International Council for the Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders (ICCIDD). When the deficiency is very severe, the effect can be up to 15 IQ points lower than normal (or a reduction of 15 per cent of the average IQ.

How do I know if I have an iodine deficiency?

A person may have low iodine levels without showing symptoms. The most reliable way to check your iodine intake is to ask your doctor to order a urine test. Your doctor may also use a blood test to ensure that your thyroid hormone levels are normal.
The most visible consequence of iodine deficiency can be a goitre or enlarged thyroid gland. A goitre can be difficult to detect in the early stages, especially in children. An ultrasound is the best method to measure the size, shape and texture of the thyroid.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism – which can be related to low iodine levels or other forms of ‘underactive’ thyroid disease – include:

  • Lethargy and tiredness, muscular weakness and constant fatigue
  • Feeling cold (even on warm days)
  • Difficulty concentrating, slowed mental processes and poor memory
  • Unusual weight gain
  • Depression
  • Thick puffy skin or puffiness of the face
  • Hair loss
  • Dry Skin
  • Constipation
  • Weak, slow heart beat
  • Enlarged thyroid or goitre

What are the implications of iodine deficiency for Australia?

Iodine deficiency affects the whole community and can lead to increasing rates of thyroid disease amongst the general population and higher rate of intellectual impairment in children. Based on overseas studies, it is also estimated that thyroid disease causes about $250 million loss in productivity in Australia each year. There is also the costs to the community for health services to support people with impaired development due to iodine deficiency.

How much iodine should I have in my diet?

  • WHO and UNICEF recommend the following daily amounts:
  • Age 0-7 years: 90 ug (micrograms or millionths of a gram)
  • Age 7-12 years: 120 ug
  • Older than 12 years, adults males and females: 150 ug
  • Pregnant and lactating women: 250 ug4

How do I ensure I get an adequate intake of iodine?

Most of our iodine intake comes from what we eat and drink. The main sources of iodine are seafood, dairy milk or dairy products, commercial bread, eggs and foods containing iodised salt. Plant foods grown in iodine deplete soils and meat from animals that have grazed in iodine deplete areas only contain low levels of iodine.

International health agencies WHO, UNICEF and ICCIDD recommend that all salt in our diet be iodised. This is called Universal Salt Iodisation (USI).

Women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or considering pregnancy will benefit from taking an iodine supplement that is safe and recommended to be taken during pregnancy, as part of their daily routine. Check the label to ensure that the iodine contained in each dose is at least 150 iug (micrograms). The only exception to this are women who have thyroid disease, in which case are advised to consult their doctor before taking an iodine supplement.

I am concerned about the use of salt in my diet?

Salt is a necessary part of a healthy diet. Some authorities advocate decreasing the intake of salt to prevent high blood pressure and reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease. As most of the salt in the Australian diet comes from processed foods, The ATF suggests reducing salt intake to as low as possible and ensuring any salt used is iodised salt.

What if I have a low salt diet?

If you have a low salt diet, make sure the salt you do consume is iodised. A mineral supplement containing iodine can be a better source of iodine for those on a low salt diet. Consult your doctor before taking any supplements.

Can I take too much iodine?

Concern about iodine excess is not a reason to stop or avoid consumption of iodised salt, as the levels in salt are small enough to be tolerated by most people, except for those with a specific diagnosed thyroid autoimmune disease or any overactive nodular goitre. If in doubt, please consult your doctor.

Iodine Deficiency Disorders

Iodine Deficiency Disorder (IDD) are caused when a person does not receive enough iodine in their diet. As a result, the Thyroid Gland increases in size (development of a goitre) and hypothyroidism can occur. Diagnosis and treatment by a specialist Endocrinologist is essential to ascertain the condition of the thyroid gland and the correct treatment. Iodine Deficiency raises important health concerns with pregnant and lactating women and the developing baby. Iodine Deficiency is the commonest cause worldwide of preventable mental retardation. Iodine supplementation for all women contemplating pregnancy, pregnant or lactating is recommended by the National Health and Medical Research Council, (NHMRC), with a media statement released in January 2010. Women during this period should ingest a daily pregnancy supplement, including 150 ug of iodine.

WANT MORE INFORMATION?

CLICK HERE to read the Statement on Iodine Deficiency.

CLICK HERE to read the 2013 Lancet UK Study.

CLICK HERE to read the ADHD Iodine Deficiency Study.

CLICK HERE to listen to the ABC Babytalk Interview (3/6/2015) 

 

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