Health Watch


  • World Iodine Deficiency Day observed on 21st October aims to create awareness of the use of iodine and highlights the consequence of iodine deficiency
  • Iodine Deficiency Disorder (IDD) is caused due to lack of iodine in the diet and
  • About 72 percent of the world's population is iodine deficient
  • Consuming foods rich in iodine and adding iodine to salt can prevent and control iodine deficiency.

World Iodine Deficiency Day is observed every year on 21st October and is otherwise known as Global Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD) Prevention Day. This day aims to create awareness among the general public of the adequate use of iodine in everyday life and also highlights the consequence of iodine deficiency.

The only organization that concentrates on the deficiency of iodine is the International Council for the Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders (ICCIDD). It plays a major role in the promotion and success of Global Iodine Deficiency Day.
World Iodine Deficiency Day

Globally, iodine deficiency disorders have become a public health problem. Nearly, one-third of the world's population is at the risk of developing iodine deficiency disorders, and according to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 54 countries are still iodine deficient.

Iodine Deficiency Disorder

Iodine Deficiency Disorder (IDD) is caused due to lack of iodine in the diet and may lead to abnormality of the thyroid gland, i.e., the development of goiter and hypothyroidism.

Insufficient amounts of iodine in the diet can cause many problems. For example, severe iodine deficiency in pregnant women can permanently harm the fetus, as it can cause stunted growth, mental retardation, and delayed sexual development.

Less severe iodine deficiency causes lower-than-average IQ in infants and children and reduces the ability to work in adults. Goiter is often the first visible sign of iodine deficiency.

Functions of Iodine

Iodine is an essential micro-nutrient which is important for the production of thyroid hormones. The body's metabolism and many other functions like bone and brain development during pregnancy and infancy are controlled by these thyroid hormones. Some of the functions are listed below:

1. Aids in Fetal and Infant Development
Pregnant and nursing women need iodine for the growth and development of their babies. Breastfed infants receive iodine from breast milk, which depends on the iodine intake of the mother. Women during pregnancy require 150 µg of iodine daily.

2. Improves Cognitive Function during Childhood
Severe iodine deficiency during childhood can lead to harmful effects on the development of the brain and nervous system. Iodine supplements can help children improve their physical development, reasoning ability, and overall cognitive function.

3. Prevents Fibrocystic Breast Disease
Fibrocystic breast disease affects women of reproductive age and sometimes can occur even during menopause causing painful, and lumpy breasts. Iodine supplements taken in high doses can reduce the pain and other symptoms. However, consulting a physician before taking the supplementation is necessary.

4. Reduces Radiation-induced Thyroid Cancer Risk
Individuals with iodine deficiency, when exposed to radioactive iodine, are at a higher risk of developing thyroid cancer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) approved potassium iodide as a thyroid-blocking agent, which aids in reducing the risk of thyroid cancer in radiation emergencies.

Recommended Dietary Allowance of Iodine

The average daily recommended amount varies depending on age. The amounts are listed below in micrograms (mcg).

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

Consequences of Iodine Deficiency

Iodine plays a significant role in neurological and endocrine development, and lack of iodine in the diet can lead to mental retardation, goiter, or thyroid disease. Iodine deficiency can be easily corrected. Consuming foods rich in iodine on an everyday basis can help reduce and prevent iodine deficiency. Iodine is most widely found in table salt.

Food Sources of Iodine

Iodine is naturally available in some foods. Foods that are rich in iodine include the following:
  • Fish such as cod and tuna, seaweed, shrimp, and other seafoods
  • Dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese
  • Grains such as bread and cereals
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Iodized salt

Iodine Supplements

The National Health Ministers Research Council, (NHMRC) recommends all pregnant and lactating women to take iodine supplementation, as part of their daily routine

International health agencies WHO, UNICEF and ICCIDD recommend that all salt in the diet should be iodized, which is known as Universal Salt Iodization (USI).

Many multivitamin-mineral supplements contain iodine, and dietary supplements of iodine-containing kelp (seaweed) are also available.

Facts about Iodine Deficiency

  • Nearly, 72 percent of the world's population is iodine deficient
  • In 2013, more than 35 million newborns were at risk of IDD worldwide
  • Sub-Saharan Africa has more than 14 million newborns at risk of IDD, followed by South Asia (11 million)
  • During pregnancy, women need about 50 percent more iodine  
  • Currently, about 70 percent of households use iodized salt globally
Insufficient iodine in the diet can lead to Iodine Deficiency Disorder (IDD). Adding iodine to salt is the most widely used preventive measure to control iodine deficiency.
References :
  1. Iodine - (
  2. Iodine Deficiency & Nutrition - (
  3. Adequately iodized salt can protect children from brain damage, but only three quarters of the world's households are using it - (
  4. WHO Global Database on Iodine Deficiency - (

Source: Medindia

Most Popular on Medindia