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Iodine Deficiency: A Global Initiative to Weed Out the Problem

The earliest reports of iodine deficiency emerged from China, almost 5000 years ago. Nature came to the rescue in the form of sea weeds and many of those who ate sea weeds// actually weeded out the problem of iodine deficiency. Perhaps it is due to the consumption of seaweeds that the Japanese do not suffer from iodine deficiency.

Initially iodine deficiency did not get the attention it deserves, although, ‘goiter’, which is a visible symptom of the deficiency, can be a spot on an otherwise flawless appearance. Far from just the looks of it, iodine deficiency can cause deleterious effects on the brain, and can trigger a major setback to the social and economic development of many countries.

Iodine deficiency is the main cause of avertable mental retardation and brain damage and an important reason for abysmal child survival rates. Equally well known is that, iodine deficiency causes goiters, while hampering growth and development. Pregnant women with iodine deficiency run an enhanced risk of miscarriages, stillbirths, and several other difficulties. Children who suffer Iodine deficiency disorder (IDD) may grow up dwarfed, mentally retarded, indifferent, and in the worst case even handicapped to the extent of normal movements, speech, or hearing.

Our body requires iodine for the production of hormones, secreted by the thyroid gland. Thyroid hormones are imperative for physical and mental growth. When the diet lacks adequate iodine, the thyroid gland is unable to produce the requisite thyroid hormone that the body needs. The relentless but fruitless effort of the thyroid gland to produce hormone, manifests as an enlargement known as ‘goiter’, which is the visible sign of iodine deficiency.

The dangerous consequences of IDD show up as abortion, stillbirth and mental retardation. This can be offset by ensuring that everyone, especially women of child-bearing age and young children, consume sufficient amount of iodine. Iodi
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