Salt has long been considered “unhealthy,” but that’s not quite true. Iodine, found in natural table salt, is an essential nutrient required for disease prevention. With so many people cutting salt from their diet for weight loss or other health issues, they are exposing themselves to a whole other set of dangers.
Who’s at Risk?
Nearly 74 percent of adults are not getting the recommended daily dose of iodine needed for a healthy body.
Iodine is found in abundance in the ocean, but is scarce among main lands. With that being said, people living far inland are at a higher risk for an iodine deficiency than those living near the ocean. With so little resources of the nutrient, it is almost impossible for a person to consume iodine in any other from but table salt. And, now some table salt manufacturers are reducing the amount of iodine in their products. Other brands are now “salt-free salt.” The cause of this ‘anti-salt’ epidemic is largely due to the dieting scene, yet a deficiency in iodine can actually lead to obesity.
Americans leading a health-conscious life are sadly more at risk for an iodine deficiency. These citizens:
- use less salt
- use kosher or sea salt (very low in iodine)
- eat more vegetables than meat (meat has more iodine than vegetables)
- are regularly exercising (sweating out iodine)
What’s at Risk?
Iodine deficiency causes major problems with the thyroid gland, making it one of the leading causes for goiter- a painful enlargement of the thyroid gland leading to a swelling neck. Goiter is a very painful, and very noticeable, disease.
Sufficient iodine levels have been linked to a reduced risk of breast cancer. To support this theory, let’s see an example. Japanese women consume a diet full of iodine rich seaweed. As a result, Japanese women have breast cancer rates of about one third of American women. This information is only valid for the women actually residing in Japan and not the ones who immigrate to America, who then consume less seaweed.
Not only does iodine somewhat prevent breast cancer, but it also helps with the treatment of those diagnosed with the illness. Iodine has been showed to reduce the size of breast tumors, both malignant and benign. However, the iodine consumption for this study was quite high- 5,000 mcg a day. The high consumption seemed to have no negative side effects.
This overlooked nutrient has been linked to the prevention of stomach cancer, heart disease, and stroke. While iodine deficiency can be linked to some serious illness, it can also cause symptoms such as depression, weight gain, and fatigue. If a person is subject to any of these symptoms, he or she should consult a physician.
How to Prevent a Deficiency?
There is only one sure fire way to prevent an iodine deficiency- consume enough iodine. That doesn’t mean people should triple-salt their French fries. A person should consume iodine through healthy foods. For example, adding salt as a seasoning to lean meat or poultry.
If you don’t think you are consuming enough iodine, talk with a health professional. There are iodine supplements available – here is an example. Between supplements and a healthy, iodine-rich diet, you can help keep the side effects of a deficiency at bay.