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What to eat for essential iodine: Uncovering the dangers of deficiency

What to eat for essential iodine: Uncovering the dangers of deficiency What foods are rich in iodine (photo: Freepik)

Iodine is one of the most crucial trace elements necessary for the proper development of a child and is also vital for adult health. Approximately 70% of Ukrainians suffer from iodine deficiency, attributed to its low content in the soil. Dietitian Oleg Shvets on Facebook, recommends how to meet the body's iodine needs and uncovers the dangers associated with its deficiency.

Why iodine is crucial for the body

"Iodine is one of the most well-known and extensively studied trace elements. It is necessary for the body to support health in relatively small amounts and is primarily used to ensure the endocrine function of the thyroid gland," explains Shvetz.

The majority of iodine in the world is found in oceans, so marine fish and plants are typically rich sources of this trace element. The farther a region is from the coastal areas, the less iodine is present in its soil.

Functions of iodine

"In fact, iodine is key in the production of thyroid hormones, which influence overall metabolism. Specifically, they help the body produce and distribute energy, regulate body temperature. These hormones are particularly important during pregnancy and childhood as they ensure normal growth and development, including the cognitive development of the child," says the doctor.

How much iodine does a person need

The daily requirement for iodine depends on age, gender, and life stage. The Ministry of Health recommends 150 mcg of iodine per day for adults. During pregnancy and breastfeeding, the need increases to 200 mcg per day. Iodine consumption norms for children are as follows: 0-6 years - 90 mcg, 7-10 years - 120 mcg, 11-17 years - 150 mcg per day.

Foods rich in iodine

The richest source of iodine is seafood, such as fish, shellfish, and seaweed. It can also be obtained from eggs, milk, and dairy products, although the quantity depends on the iodine content in the animal's diet.

"Dietary salt is often enriched with iodine, promoting increased consumption of this mineral. While iodized salt can be a good alternative to regular salt, one should be mindful of the overall limitation of salt intake," emphasizes the dietitian.

Sea salt is obtained by evaporating seawater and therefore does not contain iodine unless it is additionally enriched with it.

To avoid iodine deficiency, the daily menu should include: seafood (mussels, squid, shrimp, caviar), white fish (pollock, haddock, cod, etc.), seaweed (kelp), vegetables (potatoes, radishes, garlic, beets, tomatoes, eggplants, asparagus, green onions, sorrel, spinach), fruits (bananas, oranges, lemons, watermelons, pineapples, persimmons, feijoa), eggs, milk, beef, and walnuts.

Consequences of iodine deficiency

A deficiency in iodine disrupts the normal functioning of the thyroid gland, typically leading to hypothyroidism, where the body cannot produce an adequate amount of thyroid hormones. The health consequences of hypothyroidism usually include weight gain, excessive fatigue, cold intolerance, facial swelling, and swelling in other parts of the body.

"Iodine deficiency can also have the opposite effect, forcing the thyroid gland to work more intensively and produce more thyroid hormones. This can result in the enlargement of the gland, leading to the development of a goiter. The consequences of hyperthyroidism often include weight loss, increased appetite, heat intolerance, insomnia, anxiety, and accelerated heartbeat," says Shvetz.

Deficiency often arises due to improper nutrition. For example, vegans, vegetarians, and those who do not consume fish and seaweed need to pay special attention to iodine intake since this mineral is primarily present in marine fish and seaweed and to a lesser extent in eggs and dairy products.

The dangers of excess iodine

Regular high consumption of iodine also affects the normal functioning of the thyroid gland, increasing the risk of developing hypo- or hyperthyroidism and goiter. Creating an excess of iodine is quite challenging, as 95-98% of the iodine entering the body is excreted through urine, and 2-5% is eliminated through the intestines. WHO experts consider a safe iodine dose up to 1,000 mcg (1 mg) per day.

"At the same time, healthy adults, including during pregnancy and lactation, are not recommended to consume more than 600 mcg of iodine per day. Although toxic amounts of iodine are rarely obtained solely from food, some products, such as seafood and seaweed, may exceed the maximum recommended intake even in a single serving. Therefore, it is essential to consume them in moderate amounts," emphasizes the dietitian.

Before taking iodine supplements, consult with a doctor regarding the potential benefits and risks of adding them to your diet.