What causes iodine deficiency?

Our bodies do not produce iodine, so it must come from our diet. Iodine deficiency is rare in the United States, partly due to widespread use of iodized salt. Because animal feed is also often supplemented with iodine, meat and dairy products tend to be high in iodine.

Natural sources of iodine include food from the sea and from areas where the soil is rich in iodine. Worldwide, mountainous areas and inland lowlands far from the oceans tend to have iodine-poor soil. These are the areas where iodine deficiency is most common.

What are the risk factors for iodine deficiency?

The main risk factor for iodine deficiency is living in an area where the soil is iodine deficient and food from the ocean or iodized salt is not readily available. At-risk areas include:

  • Africa, especially Central Africa
  • Andes Mountains and other areas of South America
  • Eastern Europe
  • Himalayas and other areas of Asia, including Central and Southeast Asia
  • Mountainous regions of Central America and Mexico
  • The Alps

Reducing your risk of iodine deficiency

You may be able to lower your risk of iodine deficiency by:

  • Eating foods grown in iodine-rich soils
  • Eating meat and dairy products
  • Eating seafood or seaweed
  • Taking vitamin and mineral supplements that contain iodine
  • Using iodized salt

What is iodine deficiency?

Iodine is an element your thyroid needs to make thyroid hormones. If your diet is deficient in iodine, your thyroid gland will enlarge as it tries to increase the production of thyroid hormones. The enlarged thyroid can cause a mass in the neck known as a goiter. As thyroid levels fall, hypothyroidism develops.... Read more about iodine deficiencyintroduction


What are the symptoms of iodine deficiency?

Initially, iodine deficiency may not have any symptoms. As the thyroid reacts to lower iodine levels, it tries to produce more thyroid hormones. This ultimately leads to enlargement of the thyroid.

As levels of thyroid hormones drop, the metabolism begins to slow. This can lead to weight gain, constipation, fati... Read more about iodine deficiencysymptoms


How is iodine deficiency treated?

The main treatment for iodine deficiency is avoiding it in the first place. The introduction of iodized salt has greatly reduced the occurrence of iodine deficiency in the United States and throughout many parts of the world.

Should iodine deficiency develop, the treatment is iodine replacement. Adding iodized table salt and foods high in iodine to the diet may be enough to achiev... Read more about iodine deficiencytreatments

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 2, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Diabetes and the Endocrine System

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