Iodine: Whats and Whys

By Sushri Sangita Jena*

Iodine has been a very familiar term in every household and almost everyone knows that it is an essential mineral that our body needs to stay healthy.

However, few people are aware of the specific importance iodine holds in development of a child from the very birth till leading a disease-free life during the old age.

Importance of Iodine in leading a healthy life

Iodine is an essential component of the thyroid hormones – Thyroxine (T4) and Triiodothyronine (T3). Thyroid hormones regulate many important biochemical reactions including protein synthesis and enzymatic activity.

These hormones are critical determinants of metabolic activities and are also required for proper skeletal and central nervous system development in foetuses and infants.

Requirement of Iodine in various individuals

A new born baby needs to consume 100 mcg of iodine per day till it reaches the age of 6 months. Babies of 1-8 years age group require comparatively less iodine (90 mcg) on a daily basis. An individual of age 14 years and above require 150 mcg of iodine in their diet everyday while a pregnant woman needs to consume 220 mcg iodine on a daily basis.

Lack of iodine in India

The soil in the Indian subcontinent lacks iodine, due to which, the fruits, vegetables and pulses grown on Indian land do not have sufficient iodine in them.

No matter what type of diet you have in India, the amount of iodine in it is, therefore, very low and needs to be supplemented with the use of salt that is fortified with iodine.

Grave effects of Iodine deficiency

Iodine is essential for the production of maternal and foetal thyroid hormones. These hormones regulate the growth and development of the foetus. If there is a severe deficiency, the very survival of the baby in the womb may be threatened and may also lead to a stillbirth. It could also lead to congenital abnormalities.

Iodine deficiency can cause goitre since the lack of the mineral in a human decreases the production of essential thyroid hormones and inflames the thyroid gland and causes the enlargement associated with goitre.

Iodine deficiency can also result in hypothyroidism. As the iodine levels in the body drop, the production of thyroid hormones is severely impaired, leading to the development of this chronic disease.

Iodine deficiency causes irreversible brain damage, which in turn can cause irreversible mental retardation, especially in children. Mental retardation can cause serious intellectual disability, social isolation and mental health issues later in life.

Prevention of Iodine deficiency

Since the major source if iodine intake is through diet, one can prevent iodine deficiency by consuming foods that is rich in this mineral such as seafish, shrimp, eggs, dried plum, dairy products (yogurt), iodised salt, double fortified salt.

In India, iodine supplements or iodised salt should be a must in an individual’s diet as the content of iodine in naturally bred or grown food in the Indian subcontinent is very low.

 Effects of over consumption of Iodine

However, too much of iodine intake can also be harmful to one’s health. Consuming high amount of iodine can cause some of the same effects as of iodine deficiency like goitre, thyroid gland inflammation and thyroid cancer.

An overdosage of iodine can cause burning of mouth, throat and stomach. It can also lead to fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and even coma.

Iodine deficiency disorders are permanent and incurable.

Advice for expecting mothers

Expecting mothers should go for regular medical checkups and take diet advice from doctors as the right iodine content in a pregnant woman’s diet plays a critical role in the development of the child.


The author is a Senior Clinical Nutritionist at Bhubaneswar-based SUM Ultimate Medicare.


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