What Is Iodine And What's It Good For

Iodine, most commonly known for its benefits on thyroid function, is an essential mineral that has powerful anti-microbial properties and helps regulate thyroid hormones aiding in metabolism and overall human health. We’re going to talk more about the potential health benefits of iodine and why it is essential in your diet.

What Is Iodine 

Iodine is an essential mineral or element, used by the body for proper thyroid function and metabolism. Also called iodide, iodine is commonly found in food and widely available in iodized salt. Since iodine is essential it must be obtained through dietary sources or supplementation. Severe iodine deficiency can leads to a multitude of abnormalities, resulting in hypothyroidism, endemic goiter and cretinism, endemic mental retardation, decreased fertility, increased prenatal death, and infant mortality [R].

Benefits Of Iodine

Thyroid Function

First and foremost, iodine plays a vital role in thyroid health. Your thyroid gland is found at the base of the neck and helps regulate thyroid function, which is critical to overall metabolism, heart health and more. For proper function the thyroid absorbs small amounts of iodine and makes thyroid hormones. A low or underactive thyroid can lead to hypothyroidism. This isn’t typically found in most western diets, considering the amount of iodized salt in foods and too much iodine can have a negative impact on thyroid health as well.

The thyroid contains two iodine containing hormones, T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine). The role of the thyroid gland is to convert iodine into these hormones. Cells within the thyroid gland, combine iodine with the amino acid tyrosine, forming T3 and T4 which is then released into the bloodstream. All cells in the human body depend on T3 and T4 for the regulation of their metabolism [R].

Brain Development

Studies have shown that iodine is an integral component of brain development. The exact mechanism through which iodine influences the brain is unclear, however researchers believe it involves genetic expression. Many brain structures and systems appear to be affected with iodine deficiency, including areas such as the hippocampus, microstructures such as myelin, and neurotransmitters.

A non-randomized intervention study where iodine supplementation (200 µg KI/day) was initiated at 4–6 weeks or 12–14 weeks of pregnancy or after delivery found that a delay in maternal iodine supplementation increases the risk of neurocognitive developmental delay of their offspring [R]

During pregnancy it is found that 50% more iodine is needed to meet fetal development needs. An epidemiological study assessed whether mild iodine deficiency during early pregnancy was associated with an adverse effect on child cognitive development. They analyzed mother–child pairs from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) cohort by measuring urinary iodine concentration from 1040 first-trimester pregnant women. assessed the association between maternal iodine status and child IQ at age 8 years and reading ability at age 9 years.

Compared to those with adequate iodine during pregnancy, children with mild-to-moderate iodine deficiency were more likely to have the lowest scores for verbal IQ, reading accuracy, and reading comprehension [R].

Iodine Deficiency

Iodine deficiency can lead to many life altering adverse effects. Iodine levels which fall below 10–20 mcg/day may cause to iodine deficiency and lead to hypothyroidism, and goiters. Thyroid deficiency during pregnancy can cause a myriad of health issues, including neurological deficit in brain development and fetal development.  

Because iodine is an essential mineral, it is paramount that it is obtained from your diet or through supplementation.

Iodine Benefits: Takeaway

Iodine is an essential and vital mineral, that has a significant role in thyroid health. Without it, you’re putting yourself at risk for several adverse effects and negative health outcomes. Iodine deficiency is rare in the US, since the introduction of iodized salt, however there are some groups at risk, such as pregnant women, vegans, and those that severely limit iodized salts. Iodized salt is important for proper thyroid function and with a proper and functional diet, iodine deficiency can easily be avoided.


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