Iodine is an essential element that enables the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones. Three iodine molecules are added to make T3 (triiodothyronine), and four for T4 (thyroxine) -- the two key hormones produced by the thyroid gland so iodine is essential to the production of these two hormones of the master gland of metabolism.
One needs the proper amount of iodine for optimal thyroid function.

What is Iodine ?
Iodine is a trace mineral and an essential nutrient found naturally in the body. Iodine is needed for the normal metabolism of cells. Metabolism is the process of converting food into energy. Humans need iodine for normal thyroid function, and for the production of thyroid hormones.

Deficiency Symptoms
A severe iodine deficiency can cause hypothyroidism, and even developmental brain disorders and severe goiter. Less severe iodine deficiency is linked to hypothyroidism, thyroid enlargement (goiter) and hyperthyroidism. At the other end of the spectrum, excessive iodine intake -- both severe and moderate -- is also associated with hypothyroidism and goiter.

There are many areas around the world where soils are deficient in iodine, and iodine must be added to the diet -- usually through iodized salt. In the U.S., for example, the area around the Great Lakes used to be known as the goiter belt because the soil is particular iodine-deficient, and this resulted in higher incidence of goiter among residents of the area. Earlier in the 20th century, however, iodized salt almost wiped out iodine deficiency in the U.S. entirely.
Other countries have not had such concerted iodization programs. In 1999, global health experts announced that iodine deficiency continues to be a serious threat to global health. Insufficient iodine is, in fact, considered is the most common -- yet also most preventable -- cause of brain damage throughout the world, with 1.6 billion people at risk.

Children with iodine deficiency and its resulting hypothyroidism can suffer from stunted growth, with mental retardation and problems in movement, speech or hearing. Worldwide, iodine deficiency actually affects some 50 million children. When a woman with iodine deficiency becomes pregnant, she risks miscarriage, stillbirth and mental retardation in her baby. Even what's considered a mild iodine deficiency can hamper the growth of children's brains, reduce their IQ, and cause learning disabilities. The World Health Organization estimates that some 1 billion people around the world are at risk of health problems due to iodine deficiency. In Latin America and the Caribbean, for example, as many as 25 percent of the population -- a total of almost 200 million people -- are at greater risk of goiter, at minimum.

Where it is found
Iodized salt -- table salt with iodine added -- is the main food source of iodine. Seafood is naturally rich in iodine. Cod, sea bass, haddock, and perch are good sources. Kelp is the most common vegetable seafood that is a rich source of iodine. Dairy products also contain iodine. Other good sources are plants grown in iodine-rich soil.

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Product related PDF file
Safe Iodine Supplementation

Iodine Supplementation During Pregnancy
Thyroid foundation pushes fo iodine salt.
Benefits / uses
Iodine is one of the most essential trace elements that is required for the normal development of an individual. Approximately 60% of the total iodine content of the body is found in the thyroid gland. The thyroid is an important endocrine gland and the hormones secreted from the thyroid are responsible for controlling the body metabolism. Iodine plays a vital role in the proper functioning of the thyroid gland and thus affects the rate of body metabolism. The health benefits of iodine include:

Controls the basal metabolic rates.
Thyroid gland secretes hormones like thyroxin and triodothyronine which are responsible for maintaining the basal metabolic rate of the body. Iodine promotes the secretion of these hormones and is thus directly involved in regulating the basic metabolic rate of the body.

Helps in providing optimum energy for various activities.
Iodine plays a vital role in providing energy for various physical activities. Sufficient quantity of iodine in the body helps in best possible utilization of calories, which otherwise would deposit in the form of excessive fats making the person obese.

Benefits to females.
Iodine is especially useful for the females. It helps in the growth, development and maturation of female reproductive organs. It is also an essential element for pregnant women. It checks and reduces the chances of neurocognitive conditions such as cretinism in new born children. Small children require sufficient quantities of iodine for their proper growth movement, speech and hearing abilities.

Takes care of hair, nails and teeth
Iodine is an essential element that supports the maintenance of healthy hair, skin and teeth. Sufficient intake of this mineral prevents hair loss and supports the growth of hair.

Breast Cancer Protection
Iodine has also been found to help protect breast tissue from developing breast cancer cells. A study in the April 2005 issue of the Journal of Mammary Gland Biology and Neoplasia reports that iodine is necessary for the health of the mammary glands and that it prevents the development of both cancerous and non-cancerous tumors and cell clusters in breast tissues. Researchers who performed this study go on to suggest that iodine supplementation be part of breast cancer therapy.

Removes toxic substances from the body.
The biochemical reactions taking place in the body result in the formation of several by products that are harmful for the system. Many such substances also enter the body through various other means. Iodine helps to flush out these toxins such as lead, mercury fluorides, etc. it thus helps to enhance the immunity of the body against many diseases.

Prevents the occurrence of Goitre.
Deficiency of iodine leads to diseases like Goitre. Intake of sufficient doses helps to treat and prevent this disease.

The best way to get the daily requirement of essential vitamins is to eat a balanced diet that contains a variety of foods from the food guide pyramid. A 1/4 teaspoon of iodized table salt provides 95 micrograms of iodine. A 6-ounce portion of ocean fish provides 650 micrograms of iodine. Most people are able to meet the daily recommendations by eating seafood, iodized salt, and plants grown in iodine-rich soil. When buying salt make sure it is labeled "iodized."The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine recommends the following dietary intake for iodine:Infants
0 - 6 months: 110 micrograms per day (mcg/day)
7 - 12 months: 130 mcg/day

1 - 3 years: 90 mcg/day
4 - 8 years: 90 mcg/day
9 - 13 years: 120 mcg/day
Adolescents and Adults
Males age 14 and older: 150 mcg/day
Females age 14 and older: 150 mcg/daySpecific recommendations depend on age, gender, and other factors (such as pregnancy). Women who are pregnant or producing breast milk (lactating) need higher amounts. Ask your health care provider which amount is best for you.

Possible Side effects / Precautions / Possible Interactions:
Lack of enough iodine (deficiency) may occur in places that have iodine-poor soil. Many months of iodine deficiency in a person's diet may cause goiter or hypothyroidism. Without enough iodine, the thyroid cells and the thyroid gland become enlarged.

Deficiency happens more often in women than in men, and is more common in pregnant women and older children. Getting enough iodine in the diet may prevent a form of physical and mental retardation called cretinism. Cretinism is very rare in the U.S. because iodine deficiency is generally not a problem.
While poisoning is rare, and occur with doses of many grams, some people may experience skin reactions that may resemble acne. Excessive iodine can actually depress thyroid activity.

When To Take/Types To Take
Iodine supplements are best taken with a meal. Since iodine cannot be stored for long times, small amounts should be consumed daily. Kelp is a reliable source of iodine, but potassium iodine is also available.

Research studies / References
arw Appleby PN, Thorogood M, Mann JI, Key TJ. The Oxford vegetarian study: an overview. Am J Clin Nutr 1999 Sep;70(3 Suppl):525S-531S.

arw Lightowler HJ, Davies GJ. Iodine intake and iodine deficiency in vegans as assessed by the duplicate-portion technique and urinary iodine excretion. Br J Nutr 1998 Dec;80(6):529-35I.

arw McGuffin M, Dentali S. Safe use of herbal kelp supplements. Environ Health Perspect. 2007 Dec;115(12):A575-6; author reply A576-7.Link