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Why was Goiter Common in Children Before the 1920s?

Iodine is required by the body to produce thyroid hormones. These hormones regulate the body’s metabolism and various other vital functions. Did you know that in the past, children suffered from iodine deficiency?

Before the 1920s, up to 70% of children in different parts of the United States suffered from goiter due to iodine deficiency.

What is Iodine?

Iodine is a trace mineral found in many foods, including seafood, dairy products, grains, and eggs. It is also mixed with table salt in many countries to help prevent iodine deficiency.

Iodine is used by our thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones, which aid in tissue repair, regulate metabolism, and promote proper growth and development. Thyroid hormones are also involved in regulating body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate.

In addition to its importance in thyroid health, iodine may be essential in various other aspects of your health. Test-tube and animal studies, for example, suggest that it may directly impact the function of your immune system.

In the meantime, other studies have discovered that iodine may aid in treating fibrocystic breast disease, a condition in which non-cancerous lumps form in the breast. (Source: Healthline)

Can a Lack of Iodine Have Serious Consequences?

Iodine deficiency can result in various symptoms ranging from mildly unpleasant to severe and even dangerous. A goiter, a swelling in the neck, is one of the most common symptoms.

Your thyroid gland uses iodine to produce thyroid hormones. When your body doesn’t have enough of it, your thyroid gland overdrives to compensate and produce more hormones. This causes thyroid cells to multiply and grow rapidly, resulting in a goiter.

A decrease in thyroid hormones can also result in hair loss, fatigue, weight gain, dry skin, and increased sensitivity to cold.

Iodine deficiency can be dangerous in children and pregnant women. Low iodine levels in children can cause brain damage and severe problems with mental development.

Furthermore, it may be linked to an increased risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. (Source: Healthline)

How Can Iodized Salt Help Avoid Iodine Deficiency?

In 1917, physician David Marine began conducting experiments demonstrating that taking iodine supplements reduced the incidence of goiters.

Soon after, in 1920, many countries began fortifying table salt with iodine to combat iodine deficiency. Iodized salt was highly effective in eliminating the deficiency in many parts of the world. Before the 1920s, goiters affected up to 70% of children in some regions of the United States.

In contrast, 90 percent of the US population now has access to iodized salt, and the population is considered iodine sufficient overall.

A half teaspoon or 3 grams of iodized salt per day is sufficient to meet your iodine needs. As a result, using iodized salt is one of the simplest ways to prevent iodine deficiency without making other significant dietary changes. (Source: Healthline)

Is It Necessary to Use Iodized Salt?

If you eat a well-balanced diet that includes other sources of iodine, such as seafood or dairy products, you’re probably getting enough iodine from food alone. If you believe you are at a higher risk of iodine deficiency, consider using iodized salt.
Consider using it in conjunction with a nutritious, varied diet to ensure you’re getting enough iodine and other nutrients. (Source: Healthline)

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