Global Iodine Deficiency Disorders Prevention Day (IDD) or World Iodine Deficiency Day is observed every year on October 21. Under the theme ‘Thyroid and Communication’ in 2022, the idea is to spread awareness of iodine and its importance. Iodine is an essential micronutrient that the human body cannot produce on its own. The mineral and its significance is known to mankind for around 5,000 years. The earliest reference to iodine can be found in 2838 BC. The ancient Indian and Chinese scriptures, as well as Ayurveda, mention ‘Galganda’ or swelling in the neck (goitre) which can be treated if diagnosed on time. Iodine deficiency is a prominent health problem in developing countries. Perhaps no state in India is free from iodine deficiency disorder. Out of the 165 million people at risk of iodine deficiency disorder, 55 million suffer from goitre and two million from cretinism.

Also Read: Goitre – Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment
World Iodine Deficiency Day - October 21

Why Is Iodine Important?

A butterfly-shaped gland in the neck, the thyroid gland, is among the largest endocrine glands in the body. Critical for the thyroid and in the production of thyroid hormone that plays a role in several bodily functions, including accurate heart rate, metabolism, body temperature, and muscle movements, this hormone also controls the rate at which dying cells are replaced. If a diet is iodine deficient, the thyroid gland enlarges itself to capture more iodine from the bloodstream to feed the thyroid hormones. This overgrowth of the thyroid gland is termed goitre. Besides goitre, people with long-term iodine deficiency can develop hypothyroidism (when thyroid hormone is produced in less than the required quantity). Pregnant and breastfeeding women and infants are particularly at risk of problems due to inadequate iodine intake. A pregnant woman needs higher levels of iodine than usual for the development of the fetus. Severe iodine deficiency can cause major physical and neurological abnormalities.  

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

What Are Thyroid Related Disorders?

Low level of iodine is also associated with the following thyroid disorders:

  • Swelling in the neck
  • Unexpected weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Hair loss
  • Dry skin
  • Trouble learning
  • Irregular periods

Myths About Iodine

Two major myths about iodine that one must be aware of are:

Myth #1: We get enough iodine in salt

Fact: Iodized salt is inadequate for supplying the body’s need for iodine, particularly in our environment at present. Even though refined salt can prevent goitre to some extent, the negligible amount of iodine found in it falls far short of the amount necessary for promoting optimal thyroid function.

Myth #2: Taking iodine as a supplement will worsen thyroid disorders

Fact: Lack of iodine cause hypothyroidism. Thyroid disorders due to iodine deficiency can be safely treated with iodine supplements. 

Also Read: World Iodine Deficiency Day 2020: How Goitrogens Hamper Nutrient Absorption And Thyroid Function

World Health Organization has defined concentration cut-off values for public health significance where iodine deficiency is measured by median urinary iodine concentration (μg/L)

For Adults In General

  • Less than 20 μg/L - Severe deficiency
  • Greater than 20 μg/L and less than 50 μg/L - Moderate deficiency
  • Greater than 49 μg/L and less than 100 μg/L – Mild deficiency
  • Greater than 99 μg/L and less than 200 μg/L - Adequate 
  • Greater than 199 μg/L and less than 300 μg/L - More than adequate
  • Greater than 299 μg/L - Risk of iodine-induced hyperthyroidism

For Pregnant Women

  • Less than 150 μg/L - Insufficient
  • Greater than 149 μg/L and less than 250 μg/L - Adequate
  • Greater than 249 μg/L and less than 500 μg/L-Above the requirement 
  • Greater than 499 μg/L – Excessive

What Are Iodine Rich Foods?

The best way to remain healthy is to consume a diet that contains a variety of nutrients rather than focusing on standalone minerals. The best way to get iodine is by adding it to your diet than popping supplements unless prescribed by a doctor. Following are the iodine-rich food sources that can help prevent iodine deficiency.

Seaweed: One of the best sources, a 10-gram serving of dried nori seaweed contains about 200 mcg of iodine which is a little more than the daily requirement.

Iodized Salt: Iodized salt is now recognized worldwide as the most effective way the administration of supplemental iodine in the body.

Non-Fat Milk: Dairy is also a great source of iodine available to mankind. A 200 ml serving of non-fat cow’s milk contains 85 mcg of iodine.

Greek Yogurt: Greek yogurt is an excellent source of iodine and has a higher concentration of iodine as compared to the normal one.

Eggs: Eggs, specifically egg yolks, are a fabulous source of iodine. One large egg contains 26 mcg of iodine.