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The Importance of Iodine Rich Foods
Iodine is a trace vitamin that is very crucial for the proper functioning of the human body. Iodine plays an important role in the metabolism in the body by helping it create the thyroid hormones. It also helps in maintaining a strong immune system and helps in the proper functioning of the brain. Iodine deficiency is a very common problem in under developed and developing countries. However, it also affects many people the developed countries.
The amount of iodine present in foods depends upon the concentration of iodine in the soil. With continuous use of the soil for agricultural purposes, the iodine content in it gets gradually reduced. Foods grown in such de-mineralized soils lack the required iodine content and may result in iodine deficiency diseases in the consumers.
The best nutritional source of iodine is sea food. The plants and animals that live in the seas store and concentrate a high amount of iodine. This makes sea food very rich in iodine. Though not commonly consumed, sea weed i.e. kelp is also very high in iodine. In fact, for this reason it is used as a nutritional supplement. Meats and dairy products are also rich in iodine because iodine is routinely added to farm feed. However, animals feeding on fodder grown in de-mineralized soils may lack the required iodine content.
People who do not consume sea food on a regular basis and iodized salt are particularly prone to iodine deficiency diseases even in the developed countries. However, iodine deficiency is not so widespread like that in the underdeveloped countries due to availability of iodine supplements and general awareness about deficiency diseases.
Iodine deficiency causes the thyroid gland to malfunction. The hormones secreted by the thyroid play an important role in metabolism and energy release. Thyroid malfunction i.e. hypothyroidism causes obesity. It also affects the immune system of the body which makes the body less resistant towards infections and disease.
Iodine deficiency also causes brain damage. Iodine deficiency during pregnancy causes a condition called cretinism in the infants. This condition is very wide spread in underdeveloped countries. Iodine deficiency in the childhood causes poor mental development and impairment of intelligence quotient in the children. Studies estimate that more than 50 million people in the world are currently suffering from brain damage due to iodine deficiency.
The best way to prevent iodine deficiency is to consume iodized salt. Iodized salt contains added iodine to ensure the correct amount of iodine supply in the food. Iodized is available in almost all countries of the world. In many developing countries, the Governments and other NGOs have taken initiatives to increase the use of iodized salt and to raise public awareness.