Pass the Iodized Salt Please

The thyroid glandHave you ever wondered why common table salt contains iodine? It's because iodine is essential to your health. A diet lacking in sufficient quantities of iodine will lead to the production of a goiter and other serious health problems. Iodine is used by our bodies, and particularly by our thyroid gland, to produce the hormones triiodothyronine and thyroxine, which help to regulate heart rate, body temperature and energy levels. The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped organ that lies in front of the windpipe, just below the voice box.

Iodine is found in such foods as fin fish and shellfish, dairy products and meat, poultry and eggs and in varying degrees in fruits and vegetables. Your body only needs a small amount to stay healthy, about 150 micrograms per day. However, even healthy diets may lack sufficient levels of iodine.

In the late 1800s, goiters were a common problem in some areas of the United States, especially in the mountainous regions. It was discovered that the level of iodine in the food from these areas was low. To combat this health problem, manufacturers began adding either potassium iodide or potassium iodate to common table salt. Some scientists are of the opinion that modern diets now provide enough iodine. Whether that is true or not, iodizing salt seems like a small premium to pay for good health. In fact, iodine deficiency is still a major health problem in the Third World.

About the Author

Carol Thomas, MD

Carol ThomasDr. Carol Thomas is an Endocrinologist with a private practice in Palo Alto, California. Carol received her undergraduate degree at Stanford University and completed her medical residency at U.C.L.A. She is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at U.C.S.F. and has published numerous articles in her field of medicine. Dr. Thomas writes on endocrinology as well as general medical topics.