Salt and Iodine

Iodine was once widely publicized as necessary to prevent certain medical problems, and it was added to salt in the U.S. But many Americans are now trying to avoid salt entirely. Is iodine insufficiency on the rise?

K.M.
Waleska, Georgia

Iodine is an essential micronutrient for humans, and deficiency is always a concern, even in our country. Getting enough iodine is especially important for pregnant women and infants. Deficiencies–depending on their degree–cause a wide variety of problems ranging from fibrocystic breast disease to cognitive disorders. Those at risk include people who do not use iodized salt and people who get little iodine in other ways and consume foods that interfere with the way the body uses iodine. These foods include soy and certain vegetables, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower.

Iodized salt is rarely used in processed foods, sea salt has little, if any, iodine, and much soil has undergone iodine depletion, thereby reducing the iodine in crops. So we must rely on iodized table salt unless our diet includes enough foods that contain some of the mineral, such as seafood, dairy products, and grains.

Many people are unaware of the risks of embarking on diets that restrict their intake of certain foods and/or emphasize the consumption of other foods.