Learn Why Iodine Is Vital for Your Child

When those iodized salt ads come on, you might have wondered why iodine is needed in the first place. Ironically, iodine deficiency is no longer a third-world thing as almost one-third of the world’s population is affected by iodine deficiency regardless of geographic location. Also, keep in mind that there are large tracts of the population in many countries where there is no tracking of such deficiencies. In India, there have been no definitive studies to demarcate iodine deficiencies by territory. A limited scope and area covered study indicated that as many as one-third of the population does not get optimal amounts of this critical micronutrient in their regular diet. The growing dependence on processed and packaged foods often means that while the salt content in these foods is high, iodized salt is unlikely to have been used in their preparation.

Why Do You Need Iodine in Your Regular Diet?

Adults, expectant and lactating mothers, and children eed adequate intake of iodine daily to ensure overall good health. The thyroid gland depends on iodine to produce the hormones needed for growth; for your metabolism, enzyme, and protein synthesis to function properly; to control body temperature, maintain a regular heartbeat, repair damaged cells; ensure correct nerve and muscle function, and adequate blood cell production; prevent impaired reproductive functions in women and menstruation difficulties. Expectant women need more iodine as their thyroid gland is working twice as hard to ensure that the embryo develops properly, as babies who are still in the prenatal stage, and growing children require iodine to develop physically and mentally. If an expectant mother does not get sufficient quantities of iodine — about one and a half times average adult needs — then there are grave risks of miscarriage, stillbirth, and a baby whose nervous system and bone development is incomplete, or is mentally retarded.

Lack of Sufficient Iodine Causes Grave Issues Like Autism and Heart Disease

You want your child to be healthy, smart, and strong. So, the lactating mother must ensure that the newborn gets sufficient iodine from the breast milk. Unfortunately, iodine deficiency prevents the thyroid gland from functioning properly which can cause trouble in learning and memorizing things, irregular heartbeat, goiter (swelling in the neck), hypothyroidism, difficulties in breathing and swallowing, constipation, intolerance to cold and temperature variations, extreme weakness, stunted growth, depression, autism, or plain mental retardation. Untreated congenital hypothyroidism might result in endemic goiter as well as cretinism, which leads to developmental delays, intellectual impairment like comprehension issues, poor memory, inability to recall events, and other health problems like chronic lassitude, hair fall leading to premature balding, even extreme dryness of the skin. If not addressed in time, this deficiency could lead to thyroid gland cancer, and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis — an autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly assaults the thyroid gland.

Note Your Daily Iodine Requirement

Both the National Institutes of Health (NIH), US, and the NHS, UK have made certain recommendations about how much of various micronutrients your body needs daily. The NIH recommendation for age appropriate iodine intake is given below:


Life Stage Recommended Amount
Birth to 6 months 110 mcg
Infants 7–12 months 130 mcg
Children 1–8 years 90 mcg
Children 9–13 years 120 mcg
Teens 14–18 years 150 mcg
Adults 150 mcg
Pregnant teens and women 220 mcg
Breastfeeding teens and women 290 mcg


The Needs of a Growing Child Are Special

Babies have a higher need for iodine daily as it is not stored in the body, and their brains must develop faster. Usually, their needs are completed if the lactating mother has a sufficiently high iodine intake in her meals, or takes some supplement. Kids aged 1-8 have the lowest iodine needs, but might have very low growth rates if they do not get as much iodine as they need. Between ages 9-13, children need almost as much iodine as a grown up. The bodies of adolescents undergo several changes, and their sexual differentiation becomes more marked. Therefore, their iodine needs are equivalent to an adult. Also, as the brain acquires maturity, iodine intake and proper thyroid function is critical to ensure sharper thinking, the ability to make more synaptic connections, enjoy a glossy mane of hair on the head, prevent superfluous weight gain, and dull, flaky skin. Even voice quality can be adversely affected by poor thyroid function.

Probability of Getting Too Much Iodine from Food Is Low

There is very little likelihood of your child getting too much iodine through her/his daily meals. She/he would need to drink five glasses of milk at one go, eat 25 boiled eggs together, or down one kilo of cheese in the same meal to get dangerously high levels of iodine through food. However, you should consult a doctor before giving supplements.

Diets, Especially Fad Diets, Are Mainly Responsible for Iodine Deficiency

While going vegan might help your overall health, you run grave risks of taking insufficient iodine. Typically, vegan foods often substitute soy milk, tofu, almond milk, coconut milk, and such foods for dairy products. Since they do not eat any seafoods, fish, meat, or eggs either, they are cut off from some of the richest natural sources of iodine. When children are also given vegan diets, the dangers of iodine deficiency are increased. Further, some people cook with rock salt, or mountain salt for religious reasons, but neither contain iodine naturally. Though using iodized salt in your cooking, when making drinks like chhaachh, or snacks usually takes care of most of your daily iodine needs; the daily recommended value is met by eating food which contains iodine naturally.

How to Get Iodine from Your Natural Foods

The foods that contain sufficient quantities of iodine naturally are seafoods like dried seaweed, tuna, shrimps, oysters, salmon, cassava, cod; meat, eggs, especially egg yolks; dairy products like milk, butter, cheese, yogurt; cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, kale, carrots, spinach, Brussel sprouts, lima beans, peas, sweet peppers; fruits like peaches, bananas, tomatoes, apples, prunes, raisins, and strawberries; starchy plants like sweet potatoes; nuts and seeds like millet, pine nuts, peanuts; and herbs like garlic.
For more information, please check: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iodine-Consumer/

Content Reviewed by – Asian Hospital Medical Editors