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Why Your Diet May Not Be As Rich In Iodine As You Assume

by: Steve Smith

The trace mineral iodine is well known for its crucial role in enabling the body's manufacture of vital thyroid hormones, but it is also important for the health of the immune system and for optimal brain function. It is widely believed by many authorities that iodine deficiency should never be seen in the affluent West, although this problem affects millions throughout the developed world.

Some nutritionists argue, however, that this conventional view is too optimistic, because the content of all minerals in foods is heavily dependent on the mineral content of the soil from which those foods are derived. The assumption must therefore be that the continuing de-mineralisation of farm soils has led to a reduction in the amount of dietary iodine commonly consumed.

Fish and other seafood, however, remain a relatively rich source because these ocean creatures concentrate the sea's iodine in their flesh. Though not commonly eaten in the West, seaweed, or kelp, is also an excellent source of iodine for this reason, and is readily available in the form of a dietary supplements. Dairy products and certain meats may also be a good source, particularly where iodine is routinely added to farm animal feed. But in countries, including most of Western Europe, where animals are grazing fields growing on iodine depleted soils, levels are likely to be much lower.

So even in the West, those not including fish or seafood in their diets, and not using iodised or sea salt, may be at real risk of deficiency. In an effort to compensate for low levels of dietary iodine, the mineral has been routinely added to ordinary table salt in the US for many years. But the practice is not as common in the UK and other European countries, where specially iodised or natural "sea-salt" has been marketed more as a luxury alternative. The problem of insufficient dietary iodine has been compounded on both sides of the Atlantic, however, by increasing concern about the possible adverse health consequences, particularly high blood pressure, of excessive salt intake. Many nutritionists, however, regard these fears as exaggerated, and believe that any such potential problems are far less serious than the consequences of an insufficiency of iodine, and may be easily resolved by the use of the low sodium salt alternatives available.

Iodine, however, cannot in any case be regarded as a luxury. Its essential function lies in the production of the vital thyroid hormones; thyroxine, sometimes known as T4, and tri-iodothyronine, or T3. And as is well known, these hormones are crucially important in ensuring a healthy metabolic rate and the release of energy from food; so an underactive thyroid gland is commonly the villain in cases of excessive weight gain, particularly where this of sudden onset, and in cases of difficulty in losing weight even when following a sensible reducing programme. A healthy thyroid gland is also crucial for the optimal functioning of the immune system.

But perhaps even more importantly, iodine deficiency is also known as a major cause of avoidable brain damage; a problem which the World Health Organisation has estimated to affect an astonishing 50 million people worldwide. Sadly, many of these cases occur in children whose mothers were iodine deficient in pregnancy, resulting in a condition of severely retarded brain development known as congenital hypothyroidism, or "cretinism". Even where such catastrophic consequences are avoided, iodine deficiency in childhood may also have serious effects on the developing brain, leading to low energy and motivation for learning, and measurable impairment of IQ scores.

Since 2001 the Food and Nutrition Board of the US Institute of Medicine (FNB) has prescribed a Recommended Dietary Allowance for iodine of 150 mcg for all individuals over 14, rising to 220 mcg for pregnant women and 290 mcg for those breastfeeding. Somewhat confusingly, however, an excessive consumption of iodine is also associated with a malfunctioning or enlargement of the thyroid gland, as well as mouth ulcers, headaches and gastric upsets, and the FNB therefore advises an upper safe limit for daily iodine consumption of 1,100 mcg for adults. Most people eating a conventional Western diet are unlikely to exceed this level.

With the possible exception of pregnant and breastfeeding women, people in the West who use liberal quantities of iodised salt as a regular seasoning are unlikely to need further supplements. But many commercial multi-mineral preparations contain iodine in reasonable quantities, usually in the form of potassium iodide, and whilst not perhaps strictly necessary, such supplementary doses will do no harm and may be regarded as a useful insurance policy given that, like all minerals needed by the body, iodine functions best in the presence of adequate supplies of all the others. And it should be particularly noted in this context that the effects of any deficiency of iodine may be intensified by any deficiency of selenium, iron or vitamin A.

About The Author
Steve Smith is a freelance copywriter and journalist with a particular interest in health and wellness.

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Where to Find Useful Diabetes Information to Control the Disease

By Gary J. Sanders

Diabetes Mellitus is a disease that is least understood by the common masses. There are also a whole lot of fabricated tales about it, which makes things even more confusing. In this article, we give you detailed information on all aspects of diabetes, so that you come to understand it far better.

How is diabetes caused?

Diabetes is actually a metabolic disorder wherein the body feels an acute lack of the energy-producing hormone, insulin. Insulin, which is produced by cells in the pancreas, break down the food we eat and convert it into energy, which helps us carry on our daily activities.

Sometimes, this insulin is either deficient due to some autoimmune disorder in the body or because of the body's own capacity to absorb the amount present in it. Either way, the body fails to generate the energy automatically and slowly starts breaking under the strain of it all.

Here are some things to note about diabetes and what it is:

* Firstly, most of us tend to think that diabetes is caused by a wrong lifestyle and / or eating habits. It is important to understand that the above does not directly cause this disorder, though they could be contributing factors for the same. So this is not exactly related to diet or your daily habits.

Hyperglycemia or the presence of excess sugar in the body is the prime indicator of diabetes, but this need not necessarily be caused by sugar intake. In fact, it could well be your excess fat intake that could be the cause of your diabetes.

* People often tend to buckle under the false impression that one has to completely cut off sugar if one suffers from diabetes. The fact, though, is that one should have a moderate amount of sugar, so as to include all food varieties in one's meal. Discuss with your doctor as to how much sugar is ideal for you.

* Eating fruits is not necessarily counter-effective to your diabetes medication. While there are certain fruits such as mangoes, grapes and avocados that are totally loaded with calories and carbohydrates, there are yet others that are quite harmless and actually bestow great benefits on the body. Apples and citrus fruits are best for you if you are suffering from diabetes.

* As concerns vegetables, green leafy vegetables are the best for you, as they are a rich source of Vitamin B and Vitamin C, which naturally contain calorie-reducing properties. Potatoes and corn are best avoided, though.

* Another common concern is that one cannot have carbohydrates in one's diet. They supply tremendous energy to the body. It is not recommended to avoid them altogether from your diet. Ask your doctor to prescribe the ideal diet for you - one in which you can also include carbohydrates.

* Taking Aspirin is considered harmful for diabetics. But a recent body of research claims that this is actually good in moderation, as Aspirin prevents thickening of the arteries, hence reducing chances of heart attacks to that extent. But this medicine also has many undesirable side effects, so it is most advisable to have a word with your physician before consuming the same.

We hope the diabetes information we provided you here helped educate you better on the disorder. Take care of yourself, keep under control and you will be able to live a full life in spite of diabetes!

Find more quality diabetes information and learn how to control the disease. Gary Sanders is an expert on diabetes and a diabetes sufferer. He has dedicated the last decade of his life to mastering every aspect of diabetes including nutrition, symptoms of diabetes, diagnosis, and prevention. He has created an award winning guide that is available at

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