Iodine is a mineral essential for human health. It is mainly found in the thyroid gland, where it is used to form thyroid hormones. These hormones play an important role in regulating metabolism.
Iodine deficiency can lead to a number of health problems, including goiter, mental retardation, and infertility. Fortunately, iodine deficiency is relatively rare in developed countries. In some parts of the world, however, it remains a major problem.
Sources of iodine – where can we find it?
Iodine can be ingested through food or dietary supplements. It’s found in small amounts in many foods, but the best sources are seafood, seaweed, and eggs.
Since iodine does not occur naturally in the soil and can lead to serious deficiency symptoms if eaten incorrectly, it is added to some salt products (iodized salt).
Iodine deficiency – what are the symptoms?
Iodine deficiency is a condition that can occur when the body does not have enough iodine. This can lead to a number of acute symptoms, including:
- Goiter: an enlargement of the thyroid gland that can cause visible swelling on the neck.
- Hypothyroidism: a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones, leading to symptoms such as weight gain, fatigue, and constipation.
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis: an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and destruction of the thyroid gland.
How much iodine do people need daily?
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for iodine is 150 micrograms (μg) per day for most adults. During pregnancy, the RDA rises to 220 μg per day and during lactation to 290 μg per day. These values differ slightly from the recommendation of the German Society for Nutrition (DGE).
Risks of taking iodine supplements
Taking too much iodine can also be harmful. Consuming more than the recommended amount of iodine can lead to side effects such as stomach upset, diarrhea, and headaches. In extreme cases, it can lead to an allergic reaction or even death.
Iodine supplements are only necessary for people who do not get enough iodine through their diet or have an increased iodine requirement due to illness. A special case is the use of iodine for radiation prevention, the so-called iodine blockade, in which a short-term overdose is deliberately administered.