Why Iodine is being added to your Daily Bread

You may not know it but you need iodine in your life. No, I’m not talking about the brown tincture that your mum smeared all over your bloodied knee, although it’s closely related. The iodine you need even more than that is the kind you eat as part of your diet. You don’t need a lot (about one teaspoon over your lifetime) but it is vital, particularly in the few months before the world is blessed with your presence.

Iodine is used by your thyroid gland to manufacture a couple of hormones (with inconsiderately long names which have thankfully been abbreviated by the research community to T3 & T4). If a pregnant woman’s thyroid gland can’t get enough iodine to make these hormones then there will be disastrous consequences for her baby.

Thyroid hormones are critical for the creation of the protective coating of nerves (called myelanation) which is most active in the period from 22 weeks gestation to just after birth. A range of recent studies show conclusively that even if the mother is only moderately iodine deficient, the child will suffer a reduction in IQ of between 10 and 15 points. Severe iodine deficiency will result in significant mental retardation.

The research on iodine deficiency is well established and is the driver behind the creation of ‘iodised salt’. But in the last decade or so we’ve become a bit too good for plain old salt (rock salt only please) and the alarm bells are starting to ring. Iodised Salt is now less than 10% of all salt sales.

But even if you have a perfectly adequate amount of iodine in your diet you may still be unable to produce enough of the thyroid hormones. Guess how (c’mon it’s not that hard, you’re reading a blog about fructose)? That’s right, just make sure your diet is high in fructose (sugar for the newcomers).

A series of studies published in the eighties by the US Department of Agriculture show that fructose creates a copper deficiency. And a bit more research (from Russia) in the nineties shows that a fructose induced copper deficiency sharply decreases iodine hormone (T3 & T4) production by the thyroid gland.

So even if she has plenty of iodine in her diet, if a pregnant woman’s diet also has plenty of fructose, she’s playing Russian roulette with her child’s IQ (‘scuse pun).

The combination of a high fructose, low iodine diet is starting to have a real impact on Australian women. A recent update to 2001 research out of Westmead hospital in Sydney suggests a 50% increase in thyroid hormone deficiencies in Australian pregnant mothers.

But don’t worry, the Government is on the case. Are they banning fructose? Are they suggesting pregnant mothers take iodine supplements? No, of course not. Their solution is exactly the same as the solution for tooth decay. They’ll mass medicate. From October 2009 all bread sold in Australia will come with a free dose of iodine.

Now don’t get me wrong.I don’t know any mother that wouldn’t give both her arms to ensure her baby had the best possible start in life.And as far as I can discern there is no downside to having too much iodine (at the levels we are likely to be getting).But the research suggests that if we keep increasing fructose in our diet, then no matter how much iodine we put in the bread, we won’t be able to convert it to the hormones pregnant mothers need.

The problem is that, just as with fluoride and now with iodine, the knee jerk response to problems created (at least in part) by overconsumption of sugar is to pull the ‘mass-medicate’ lever. How long will it be before the Government decides the best option for high cholesterol or blood pressure or diabetes is to mass medicate. How about depression? Before you know it there’ll be more medication than bread in our daily bread.

Why is the Government so reluctant to take a proper look at what the research says is the common cause to all of these ailments? I hope it’s going too far to suggest that Big Sugar is pulling the strings. I believe firmly that you should not ascribe to conspiracy that which can be adequately explained by incompetence. But I think all the good marketing work Big Sugar is doing (just to move product) may be operating to muddy the waters for those charged with looking after our health.

It’s time to cut through the spin and look to the underlying cause before we once again reach for the band-aids.

Join the discussion 7 Comments

  • Danyelle says:

    I’ve just been reading through your blog after listening to a lecture given at the University of California called “Sugar: The Bitter Truth.” (It’s on YouTube)
    Anyway, thanks for getting this information out there. I’ve been more or less aware of problems with sugar intake for the last 11 years since I had gestational diabetes with my first (and two subsequent) pregnancies.
    After reading this particular entry about the iodine and fructose and mental development, it struck me that I was very blessed to have been diagnosed with the diabetes. If I hadn’t, I’m sure I would have “sugared it up” throughout my pregnancies and maybe handicapped my babies in the process.
    Thanks again for the research and writing and posting. Keep it up!

  • Lynn M. says:

    I’m also leary with the practice of mass medication. But in the case of iodine, I think it may be a good move. At least iodine is something essential for our health, unlike fluoride.

    I think iodizing bread is better than iodized salt. The chloride (a halide) in salt actually competes with iodine for absorption by the body. American bread used to be iodized, and now the iodine in bread has been largely replaced by bromide, which, like chloride, is a halide and displaces iodine in the body. Far better for your bread to be iodized than brominated.

    I wonder what function iodine or bromine serve in breadbaking.

  • Ed says:

    Government saves the day, or not.

    In the US much of the flour and bread is brominated. And it is known that bromine actually replaces iodine in the body, it pushes iodine out. The opposite is true as well.

    Iodine is now being found to be necessary for many more functions than thyroid through out the body. Its roll as a nutrient is largely misunderstood by the medical community because the medical community as a whole is very good with medications, and has limited expertise in nutrition.

    The leading and most current research IS being done by medical doctors, and they are finding out some amazing stuff. For info go to http://www.youtube.com and do this search… “iodine deficiency”. Do the same at google.

    I would rather have Iodine than what bromine.

    Sounds like Australia is way ahead of the US in this.

    I am in favor of both, less sugar AND more iodine.

  • katiegirl says:

    I agree. It’s time to put the bandaids away, and start dealing with the root cause of problems.

    It’s time for governments to get tough, put aside the agendas and pressures of big business and instead get strict on the amount of sugars in food, and get strict with advertising to children, and what can be sold in schools.

    Get strict on the amount of chemical additives are in our food, and cosmetics.

    Until this happens we are always going to be fighting a losing battle on obesity, cancer, heart disease, and all the other lifestyle diseases of the 21st century.

    (That being said, if I had to choose between bromide or iodine, I know which I’d rather…)

  • paul says:

    Iodine is a very important nutrient that we should always take. It helps support our overall health.

    Supplements Canada

  • Deborah says:

    Like the Japanese we need to consume more sea vegetables.

  • Andrea MacLachlan says:

    They are used as dough conditioners, so bakers can get a consistent result every time. Bromide, however, is toxic, and a cause of many health problems.

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