Iodine is one of the many essential trace minerals needed for normal body function. It plays a large role in how the thyroid and parathyroid glands function and how they produce the hormones that significantly impact the body's metabolism and overall health. Individuals with insufficient quantities of iodine in their diet can experience exhaustion and weight gain. This has lead to the theory among dieters that they may be suffering from low iodine levels and that iodine supplements may help them lose weight.
Iodine and Salt
Today, iodine deficiency is much less common than in the late 1800s and early 1900s, as more people have access to iodine-rich foods such as seafood. Iodine deficiency became suspect when certain populations of people of the United States developed above average incidents of goiter.
Goiter is a condition in which the thyroid gland becomes enlarged due to hypothyroidism, meaning below normal thyroid function. This "goiter belt" was found to be in the northwestern and Great Lakes regions and that the soils had become depleted of iodine. Also, this population seldom ate seafood or sea salt due to the distance from the ocean. In 1924, salt producers began adding small amounts of iodine to table salt and the incidences of goiter decreased dramatically.
How Iodine Affects the Thyroid
Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough essential hormones for a healthy and balanced body. The thyroid gland absorbs iodine from the body, and then uses it to create this hormone. After the thyroid hormone is released into the body, some of the iodine is recycled back to the thyroid gland. Since not all the iodine needs to be replenished, the thyroid only needs small quantities of iodine to function properly. Today iodized table salt is the primary source for iodine.
Iodine Recommended Dosage
The recommended daily dosage of iodine is based on age. Children between 1 and 8 need 90mcg. Children ages 9 to 13 need 120mcg. Ages 14 and up require 150mcg. Pregnant women need 220mcg and lactating women need 290mcg. These recommendations are made by the US National Academy of Science. The maximum daily iodine dosage set by the Food and Nutrition Board is 1100mcg for adults.
Symptoms of insufficient iodine can be mild to severe. A healthy thyroid needs iodine to keep the body's metabolism working properly. Low iodine levels cause the thyroid to not produce enough thyroid hormone. Severe iodine deficiency symptoms include anemia, slow speech, puffy hands and face, drowsiness, mental apathy and a swollen or enlarged tongue. Foods that are goitrogenic, such as broccoli, cauliflower, spinach and radishes, can interfere with iodine absorption, which can make the thyroid gland under active leading to hypothyroidism.
Iodine and Weight Loss
The idea that Iodine influences weight loss is due to the important role that iodine plays in a healthy thyroid. Without iodine, the thyroid struggles to maintain the body's metabolism. The metabolism slows down and can cause a related weight gain. If the thyroid receives sufficient iodine, it functions properly, which returns the metabolism to normal and weight loss is easier.
There is no hard evidence that increasing iodine dosages can lead to weight loss. However, some doctors, such as Donald. R. Yance, Jr. feel that modern eating habits have resulted in iodine deficiency in most people. In Dr. Yance's book, "Herbal Medicine, Healing and Cancer," he indicates that reduced consumption of iodine rich foods and salt has resulted in an increase in hypothyroidism, and weight gain is one of the subsequent symptoms.
Iodine supplements are available on the market or via a doctor's prescription and can help those suffering from a slow metabolism. It is possible to overdose on iodine since it is only needed in very low amounts. Symptoms of iodine overdose include vomiting, diarrhea, a metallic taste, stupor, and delirium. Iodine supplements should be administered with care and under a doctor's supervision.