Salt and Health

Iodine in Salt

Iodine is an essential trace element for the synthesis of thyroid hormones and plays a major role in preventing Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD) which cause goiter, cretinism, deafness, mental retardation and miscarriages. Three decades ago, as part of a public health program and to provide the population a minimum of iodine intake, the government ruled iodine addition to table salt to be mandatory.

Deficiency of the growth and development regulating hormones normally produced in the thyroid may lead to serious damage to our organism. Lack of iodine impairs thyroxin and triIodinethyronine (T3) production and to compensate this deficiency the thyroid gland secretory activity increases. With progression of this condition, the thyroid gland will enlarge and become a visible mass in the neck - commonly known as goiter.

People living by the sea are less likely to develop IDD, because of iodine intake from fish and other seafood. In Brazil, greater incidence of IDD occurs in remote inland areas, where quality salt is not easily found. People look for any source of salt they can find -- and even cases of animal feed consumption to supply this lack have been reported!

UNICEF recommends 0,09mg iodine intake in children from 0 to 7 years of age; 0,12 mg from 7 to 12 years of age; and over 12, a minimum of 0,15mg of the nutrient every day. In nursing or pregnant women, the need increases and daily intake should be 0,2mg.

Goiter in adults leads to apathy, fatigue and lack of disposition. However, iodine deficiency during pregnancy and up to the first years of life may cause serious damage to the nervous system, such as impaired brain development. As a result, disorders may develop in the form of mental retardation, lower-than-average IQ, spasms, seizures and cretinism the IDD emblematic disorder.

The amount of 15 mg or more - up to a maximum of 45 mg of iodine per kilogram of salt - is the adequate iodine level in table salt, according to the regulation of the Ministry of Health. (Resolução ANVISA - RDC nº 23, de24/04/2013). .

Health Surveillance authorities control table salt iodine content very strictly. Salt samples are collected at random points of sale and sent for analysis to LACEN (Central Laboratories) units - the Instituto Adolfo Lutz in São Paulo, Laboratorio Noel Nutels and Fundação Oswaldo Cruz in Rio de Janeiro.

If a non-conformity is found, analysis results are published, the production batch is recalled and its sales suspended. The producer is entitled to a counter-proof analysis, but should the unfavorable result be confirmed the whole batch will be seized and destroyed.

Learn more about iodine.

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