Several blogs, including Instapundit, The Volokh Conspiracy, and JustOneMinute have picked up Nicholas Kristof’s Dec. 4 piece in the NY Times that calls attention to the problem of iodine deficiency in third world countries, such as Pakistan.
I’ve just been reading this 2006 paper by Stephen A. Hoption Cann, PhD, published by the American College of Nutrition, Hypothesis: Dietary Iodine Intake in the Etiology of Cardiovascular Disease which states that the “proportion of the US population with moderate to severe iodine deficiency (<50 µg iodine/L in urine) has more than quadrupled in the last 20 years.”
That’s right here at home, people.
I posted in August about my own experimentation with iodine supplementation. Today I typically take 25 mgs/day — thousands of times the RDA — and the results have been incredible. Now that winter’s here, for instance, I’ve noticed I don’t get cold as easily, and my skin doesn’t feel dry and itchy like always has in past winters. And of course, the fibrocystic breast tissue that was with me since my 20s is completely gone.
I’m a believer. I’ll never stop taking the stuff.
I just hope other people catch on & start taking it too.
What I find most fascinating about the whole subject is that iodine is so critical to so many of the human body’s biochemical systems that you have to wonder: how pervasive is the impact of our epidemic of iodine deficiency?
Obesity is an obvious candidate for thought. It began taking off in the United States during during the late 1980s. That corresponds pretty closely to the 20-year timeframe cited in Cann’s paper.
Some of that is probably because we no longer get any iodine from bread. The FDA “explicitly approved bromate for . . . use in bread through the standards for bread and rolls promulgated in May of 1952.” One of the flour conditioners potassium bromate displaced, with the FDA’s blessing, was potassium iodate.
Another likely factor is that we’ve been instructed to reduce salt intake. When we’re urged to cut back on salt (which the National Research Council was doing as far back as 1989, and probably further — I remember my grandfather being told not to eat salt in the 1970s) then we’re not necessarily eating enough iodized salt per day to get even the RDA for iodine.
Then there’s this: does the salt you sprinkle on your pommes frites provide as much iodine as it’s supposed to? See this e.g. (translated I think from French — but you’ll get the gist):
Iodine content of reference iodized salt was 38.53?6.92 on June 1997. After the salt was stored at room temperature with a relative humidity of 30 % -45% and in sealed paper bags for three years, iodine content changed to 18.25 ??4.72. Thus 52.63 % of was lost in approximately 3.5
years. This means that standing time and storage conditions is very effective storage of iodine in food.
Cooking conditions is very effective on the stabilization of iodine. In the case of oxidants in diet loss of iodine is more effective, 82% of iodine may lost during the high temperature cooking oxidized medium. So it is advised to consume iodide to put the food not before the cooking after the cooking. On the other hand, if consuming of iodide not advised to people who have problems with their thyroid, long term treatment at oven with an mild oxidant may loss 81% of iodine and 55% of iodine without an oxidants.
Less obvious is iodine’s role in other bodily systems that aren’t obviously linked to the thyroid.
Like heart disease, for instance.
That Cann paper I linked up top explores the correlation between low iodine levels and cardiovascular disease. Talks about selenium as well, another nutrient that’s deficient in our diets.
Here’s a taste:
Uotila et al.  made the observation that subjects who died from coronary sclerosis often had goitre. In order to further examine this phenomenon, 250 Finnish subjects who had died from coronary heart disease were age and sex-matched to controls who died from other causes . The risk of death from coronary heart disease was found to be significantly higher in individuals with goiter (odds ratio (OR) = 3.53, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.43–4.99). It was noted that the average thyroid weight was higher in those dying from coronary disease. Moreover, among the coronary disease cases with goiter, there was a lower average age of death and a higher average heart weight. Due to the low iodine content of foods and lack of an iodization program at the time, endemic goiter was common in Finland, particularly in the east.
Well worth clicking through to read the whole thing. Good Sunday eve reading ;-)
The point Kristof tries to make in his NY Times article is that nutrient supplementation makes for boring public policy. He is referring to foreign aid/humanitarian policy, but the same is true right here at home. We’re happy to pour billions of dollars into breast cancer research, for instance (the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation alone has spent $1 billion over 25 years). And there’s nothing wrong with that. But where’s the enthusiasm for using iodine supplementation to prevent breast cancer? It’s not there — not on anything like the pink-ribbons-everywhere scale of mainstream breast cancer campaigns — because it’s such a prosaic and unpatentable approach.
But think about it.
Iodine supplementation may well be an very inexpensive way to address a whole range of very costly health issues that are faced by a huge majority of Americans.
What would become of the “healthcare crisis” if that proved to be the case?