Dietary Mineral Iodine - An Essential Trace Element Needed For Life

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Iodine's main role in human biology is as constituents of the thyroid hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Thyroid hormones play a basic role in biology, acting on gene transcription to regulate the basal metabolic rate.



Iodine is an essential trace element for life, the heaviest element commonly needed by living organisms, and the second-heaviest known to be used by any form of life.

Iodine has a nutritional relationship with selenium. A family of selenium-dependent enzymes called deiodinases converts T4 to T3 (the active thyroid hormone).

Iodine accounts for 65% of the molecular weight of T4 and 59% of T3. Fifteen to 20 mg of iodine is concentrated in thyroid tissue and hormones, but 70% of all iodine in the body is found in other tissues, including mammary glands, eyes, gastric mucosa, fetal thymus, cerebro-spinal fluid and choroid plexus, arterial walls, the cervix, and salivary glands.

Iodine - Constituent of the hormone thyroxine.


Iodine's main role in human biology is as constituents of the thyroid hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). These are made from addition condensation products of the amino acid tyrosine, and are stored prior to release in an iodine-containing protein called thyroglobulin.

Thyroid hormones play a basic role in biology, acting on gene transcription to regulate the basal metabolic rate. T3 acts on small intestine cells and adipocytes to increase carbohydrate absorption and fatty acid release, respectively. A deficiency of thyroid hormones can reduce basal metabolic rate up to 50%, while in excessive production of thyroid hormones the basal metabolic rate can be increased by 100%. T4 acts largely as a precursor to T3, which is (with minor exceptions) the biologically active hormone.

Sea food is a major source of iodine


Natural sources of dietary iodine include seafood, such as fish, seaweeds (such as kelp) and shellfish, dairy products and eggs so long as the animals received enough iodine, and plants grown on iodine-rich soil. Iodized salt is fortified with iodine in the form of sodium iodide.

Iodine deficiency gives rise to hypothyroidism


Iodine deficiency is a lack of the trace element iodine, an essential nutrient in the diet. A deficiency of iodine leads to decreased production of T3 and T4 and a concomitant enlargement of the thyroid tissue in an attempt to obtain more iodine, causing the disease known as goiter.

Iodine deficiency gives rise to hypothyroidism, symptoms of which are extreme fatigue, goiter, mental slowing, depression, weight gain, and low basal body temperatures.

Iodine deficiency is the leading cause of preventable intellectual disability, a result that occurs primarily when babies or small children are rendered hypothyroidic by a lack of the element.

Cretinism is a condition associated with iodine deficiency and goiter, commonly characterized by; mental deficiency, deafness, squint, disorders of stance and gait and stunted growth due to hypothyroidism.

Iodine can be toxic in pure form or excess.


Elemental iodine is toxic if taken orally undiluted. The lethal dose for an adult human is 30 mg/kg, which is about 2.1–2.4 grams for a human weighing 70 to 80 kg.

Excess iodine can be more cytotoxic in the presence of selenium deficiency. Iodine supplementation in selenium-deficient populations is, in theory, problematic, partly for this reason. The toxicity derives from its oxidizing properties, through which it denaturates proteins (including enzymes).

Elemental iodine is also a skin irritant, and direct contact with skin can cause damage and solid iodine crystals should be handled with care. Solutions with high elemental iodine concentration, such as tincture of iodine and Lugol's solution, are capable of causing tissue damage if used in prolonged cleaning or antisepsis. Similarly, liquid Povidone-iodine (Betadine) trapped against the skin resulted in chemical burns in some reported cases.

Iodine dosage recommendations


Recommendations by the United States Institute of Medicine are between 110 and 130 µg for infants up to 12 months, 90 µg for children up to eight years, 130 µg for children up to 13 years, 150 µg for adults, 220 µg for pregnant women and 290 µg for lactation.

The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for adults is 1,100 μg/day. This upper limit was assessed by analyzing the effect of supplementation on thyroid-stimulating hormone.

The thyroid gland needs no more than 70 μg/day to synthesize the requisite daily amounts of T4 and T3.

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