Do I Need Iodine? Why Do We Need Iodine?

While not as popular as Vitamin C or D, iodine is an important nutrient that we should consume everyday. Iodine is necessary for proper thyroid hormone production and tissue development. Iodine deficiency can lead to a number of health issues, including weight gain, high cholesterol, fatigue, and even mental illnesses like depression.

In the early days of medicine, iodine was successfully used to treat high blood pressure (hypertension). It is now known that iodine relaxes the blood vessel, which lowers the blood pressure.

Iodine deficiency can have serious effects on the body. The symptoms include: abnormal weight gain, mental retardation, poor levels of perception, depression, decreased fertility, coarse skin, fatigue, constipation, goiter, and chances of still birth in pregnant women.

Recent health studies are again showing how essential iodine really is. A recent study conducted at University of Washington connects higher intakes of iodine with good health. In the past, Americans consumed a lot more iodine than they do now. Years ago, iodine a regular ingredient in bread and dairy products, making it a lot easier to get your recommended intake. Today, iodine has unfortunately been replaced with bromide, a substance that actually competes with your body's iodine level. This makes the average American's iodine deficiency even worse.

Do You Need Iodine?

Benefits of Iodine
  • Iodine helps your thyroid gland function properly by assisting with hormone production, which directly influences basic metabolic rate. These hormones affect heart rate, body weight, blood pressure, and temperature.
  • Iodine helps you maintain healthy teeth, hair, and nails.
  • Iodine plays an essential role in helping you maintain optimal levels of energy by effectively using the calories you eat and reducing the amount converted to excess fat.
  • Iodine aids in the normal growth of reproductive organs and assists in regulating blood sugar and prevents and treats diabetes.
  • Iodine removes toxic substances that can be harmful to the body, such as lead and mercury. It also prevents the production of harmful bacteria in the stomach.
  • Iodine can reduce the effects of certain medical conditions, such as fibrocystic diseases, ovarian cysts, and cancers.
  • Iodine is essential for the health of the mammary glands and prevents the growth of cancerous and non-cancerous tumors in breast tissues.
  • Iodine has antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties and promotes immune function.
  • Iodine is essential for the health of the mammary glands and prevents the growth of cancerous and non-cancerous tumors in breast tissues.

Proper iodine levels may also lower your chances of breast cancer. 30 years ago when iodine consumption was twice as high as now, breast cancer occurred in only one out of 20 women. Today, however, one in seven women will develop breast cancer. Since iodine is no longer included in our bread or dairy products, iodized salt is our major source of iodine. Research indicates that 45 percent of American households use iodine-free salt. In addition, because of the obsession with salt reduction in the diet, there has been a 65 percent reduction in salt consumption, especially among elderly people. As a result, the number of people with moderate to severe iodine deficiencies has more than quadrupled in the last 20 years.

Along with preventing breast cancer, there is also a growing amount of evidence suggesting that proper iodine consumption may play a major role in preventing atherosclerosis and thus heart attack and stroke risk. Health researchers first noticed this trend when studying the population of Finland in 1960. Before 1960, there was a considerable difference in cardiovascular disease rates between eastern and western Finland, with more heart issues occurring in eastern Finland. Why?

Of all the factors examined--including fat and cholesterol intake--the only considerable difference in the diets of the two regions was that western Finland consumed much more iodine. Death from a heart attack was 3.53 times more likely in people with goiter, a health issue symptomatic of iodine deficiency. The evidence linking iodine deficiency with heart problems doesn't stop there. In 1970, yet another study was conducted that found that those with the highest iodine intake had the lowest incidence of cardiovascular disease rates.

Iodine and Hyperthyroidism

But you don't have to look to just Finland to see that iodine plays a key role in good health. Developing nations with the greatest iodine deficiency also have the highest heart disease and stroke rates. High rates of heart disease and atherosclerosis are also connected with hypothyroidism, or low thyroid function. In one study, even women having hypothyroidism with no obvious symptoms had a 3.1-fold increase in heart attacks. Animal research has reinforced the findings of these suggestive clinical studies. Animals ingesting the "wrong kind of fat" routinely developed atherosclerosis. However, if iodine was supplemented, the occurrence of atherosclerosis dramatically reduced.

Those suffering from hypothyroidism usually have higher cholesterol levels, including LDL-cholesterol. One important study indicated that adolescents with high cholesterol levels and normal thyroid hormone levels saw a fall in their cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol back to normal when placed either on iodine alone or iodine plus thyroid hormone (T4).

While supplementing iodine is a beneficial to the body, too much iodine can be very harmful. Consuming more than 2,000 mg can lead to thyroid papillary cancer, and individuals suffering from kidney conditions or tuberculosis are at a high risk for other detrimental effects. Additionally, if you have any type of medical condition that causes swelling or water retention, be careful not to consume too much salt. It is recommended to speak to your doctor before starting on any type of supplement.

Foods that Naturally Contain Iodine

All of this scientific research really goes to show 2 things in particular: (1) iodine is an essential part of our daily diets, and (2) getting enough iodine can prevent a number of very significant health problems. If you want to naturally increase your daily amount of iodine, try eating more iodine-rich foods like seafood, especially seaweed, as it is a great natural source of iodine. If you can't see yourself eating seaweed wraps everyday, consider adding a simple iodine nutritional supplement to your diet. You never know, but you could see positive changes in your health and the way you feel immediately...

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