World Iodine Deficiency Day is observed on October 21 every year, to emphasize the importance of iodine, as a beneficial essential nutrient and for preserving total healthcare. It is an international health campaign, also termed as Global Iodine Deficiency Disorders Prevention Day, marked by several developed and developing nations, to effectively tackle complications arising from inadequate mineral intake and keep all serious associated ailments at bay.

In India, the National Goitre Control Program (NGCP) was launched in 1962 with the chief objective of eradicating iodine deficiencies among residents in every part of the country. This wellness crusade was later renamed to National Iodine Deficiency Disorders Control Program (NIDDCP) in 1992, with a focus on thwarting all grave illnesses plaguing people due to iodine deficiency, namely mental retardation, physical weakness, deaf-mutism, stillbirth, abortion and cretinism – an inherent thyroid deficiency right from the time of being born. The NIDDCP conducts many events in this regard, such as educating the general public about the necessity of iodine, harmful implications of its deficiencies and incorporating countrywide health policies to ensure sufficient iodine consumption by people. The central target being, to lower the incidence of iodine deficiency-linked sicknesses to below 5 per cent of the total population and guarantee that every household is able to acquire and consume the required per day amount of iodised salt.
World Iodine Deficiency Day 2020

Although iodine is a trace mineral and is hence required only in minimal amounts as part of the regular diet, it performs numerous vital functions in the human body. These include the synthesis and operation of thyroid hormone, promoting growth and muscular strength, safeguarding foetal neurodevelopment in pregnancy, as well as bolstering immunity and elevating brain activity.

Also Read: Iodine: Functions, Food Sources, Deficiency And Toxicity

Since iodine cannot be made by the bodily tissues within the system, it has to be provided through food, with iodised salt being the most fundamental and best available source, to meet daily mineral requirements and prevent deficiency disorders. Lack of sufficient iodine intake results in minor and major health anomalies, termed as iodine deficiency disorders and abbreviated as IDD. IDDs can result in a wide spectrum of symptoms, with just mild fever, fatigue to severe disorders like pregnancy complications and stillbirth, a decline in mental abilities, breathing distress, depression and enlarged thyroid gland i.e. goitre.

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To avert these sicknesses, it is not only crucial to eat foods rich in iodine, but also ensure that the mineral is adequately bioavailable and properly absorbed by the internal cells and tissues. While certain foods like iodised salt, eggs, seafood, cheese and prunes offer generous amounts of iodine, specific compounds present in some other dietary sources, particularly when consumed as staple foods or in excess, can hamper iodine absorption in the body. These substances are termed as goitrogens, found in plenty in some foods, which upon regular consumption, eventually leads to ailments linked with thyroid and swollen glands. Read on, to gain insight into what goitrogens are made up of and the ways in which they lead to poor thyroid functioning.

Significant Details About Goitrogens:

What Are Goitrogens?

Goitrogens refer to substances that inhibit iodine assimilation and interfere with the normal functioning of the thyroid gland, which in turn curtails optimal metabolism, immunity, as well as other biochemical operations in the body. They are present in many items, including natural plant-based bounty of vegetables, fruits, certain legume-derived foods, as well as synthetic chemicals used in common drugs, prescription medicines.

Which Are The Various Types Of Goitrogens?

There are three main categories of goitrogen compounds – goitrins, thiocyanates and flavonoids. While goitrins and thiocyanates occur in abundance in crushed plant products, like fruits being chewed upon, peeled or vegetables being sliced, flavonoids are useful antioxidants that abound in green tea, red wine and numerous herbs. Even though flavonoids confer a multitude of health incentives, when taken in excess, they are converted to goitrogens by gut bacteria and hence must be ingested in moderation.

How Do Goitrogens Impair Thyroid Function?

When ingested as part of food or medicine, goitrogens curb the iodine from incorporating into the thyroid gland, thereby restricting the formation of thyroid hormones, namely T3 – triiodothyronine and T4 – thyroxine. These components also hinder the enzyme activity of thyroid peroxidase, which facilitates the attachment of iodine to amino acid tyrosine, for the smooth synthesis of essential thyroid hormones T3 and T4. Moreover, goitrogens impede the action of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), that assists in the formation of hormones by the thyroid gland.

Are There Any Other Serious Outcomes Of Thyroid Problems?

The foremost problem stemming from poor iodine absorption and lack of thyroid hormone synthesis, is goitre, which is the enlargement of the thyroid gland in the neck. However, since thyroid hormones are involved in several body processes like tissue growth, brain power, bone strength, heart wellness and pregnancy, quite a few health anomalies are triggered due to thyroid malfunction. These comprise a negative influence on mental capabilities, dementia, pregnancy-related complications of poor neural development in the foetus, uncontrolled weight gain, increased risk of heart disease and high probabilities of experiencing bone fractures.

Also Read: Thyroid Disorders: Debunking Myths Backed By Science

In Which Foods Are Goitrogens Present In Vast Quantities?

Goitrogens are found in profuse volumes in many cruciferous vegetables, like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach and kale. They are also present in ample amounts in starchy foods like sweet potatoes, corn and some varieties of fruits such as peaches, strawberries and pears. In addition, foods made from soy, like tofu, soy milk are also high in goitrogenic compounds. Millets, seeds and legumes have elevated goitrogen levels in them as well. While it is important to consume a balanced diet comprising all these healthy nutrient-dense foods, in order to avoid thyroid disorders it is advised to vary the diet now and then, cook raw foods thoroughly and quit smoking, for enhanced overall health.