Iodine is fundamental to health, but many ignore its enormous importance.
It is a key component of thyroid hormones, responsible for regulating our metabolism.
Without iodine get serious problems of development.
But many of us have no idea how much we need or where it comes from.
Research conducted by Margaret Rayman, Professor of Nutritional Medicine at the British University of Surrey, found iodine deficiency in many of the current “healthy diets” and that this poses a risk of iodine deficiency in pregnant women.
Why do we need iodine?
Thyroid hormones are crucial for growth and metabolism, and are essential for brain development, especially that of a fetus in the uterus.
And iodine is a key component of those hormones.
“Iodine deficiency is the biggest preventable cause of learning disabilities in the world,” Professor Rayman told the BBC.
“If pregnant women do not get enough iodine, their children may be born with learning difficulties or congenital thyroid deficiency; what is traditionally known as cretinism,” he added.
In fact, the word “cretin” was coined to describe those who lived with this health problem in the Alps, where there has been a historical iodine deficit among its inhabitants.
In this mountain range, doctors also recorded a greater occurrence of goiter cases, consisting of an increase or swelling of the thyroid gland in the neck.
We now know that ” this is a very visible side effect of iodine deficiency, when the thyroid gland expands excessively by trying to catch more iodine from the bloodstream,” Rayman said.
The dangers of ‘healthy diets'”
The best food source for iodine in the world is probably white fish, followed by eggs.
Most countries add iodine to table salt.
In many countries, including the United Kingdom, the people will get most of their iodine intake from milk and dairy products, because livestock feed is enriched.
“Vegans calling me murderer and violating”: farmers who feel increasingly threatened by animal advocates
“Why I stopped being vegan”
However, in the industrialized world, milder forms of iodine deficiency have become a widespread problem.
This is not caused by a lack of availability of iodine in enriched foods, but by a conscious decision not to consume them.
It is a measure taken every day by most vegetarians and increasingly vegans, who deliberately exclude all animal products from their diet.
A new study by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health collected information from a group of people of different ages and gender, including pregnant women.
The sample also included groups of vegetarians and vegans.
Researchers found that the vegan group had a particularly low probability of having enough iodine intake.
Professor Rayman also found recent studies detailing cases of goiter in pregnant women on a vegan diet, and hypothyroidism in their babies.
Professor Rayman also studied biological samples of about 14,000 pregnant women in the west of England in the 1990s and monitored their children’s development and health for years.
Together with her colleague, Dr. Sarah Bath, they examined all the data, particularly those relating to the reading skills and IQ of children.
Bath found that ” children born to women with iodine deficiency had a significantly higher probability of having low grades in the verbal section of the IQ test at age eight, and low grades in reading comprehension and reading accuracy at age nine.”
The results revealed the long-term impact on the development of children: while the iodine deficiency of the mother was worse, the qualifications of the child in the tests were lower.
But perhaps the most surprising thing is that the study only included mothers with iodine deficiencies between mild and moderate.