Iodine is one of the trace elements that are essential to the healthy function of the human body. It is recommended that an adult needs to consume 0.15mg of iodine a day as it is not stored in the body for future use.
Iodine is absorbed from the diet via the bloodstream into the thyroid gland which is located in the neck. The thyroid gland then uses the iodine to produce the two thyroid hormones; Thyroxine (T4) and Triiodothyronine (T3). These hormones are formed by the combination of Iodine with the amino acid Tyrosine. The release of the thyroid hormone is regulated by the pituitary gland.
The thyroid hormones are essential for keeping cell function and metabolic rates at optimum levels. The thyroid hormones achieve the stabilisation of metabolic rate by stimulating the consumption of oxygen by the body. Oxygen is essential in the body for most of its functions but particularly for growth, movement and maintenance of a regular temperate. Within the cells of the body the thyroid hormones stimulate the synthesis of protein and also the action of the mitochondria.
Due to its part of the thyroid hormones Iodine is essential for the healthy function of many of the bodily systems. It affects:
Basal Metabolism-this is the regulation of the amount of energy to maintain a normal temperature and healthy body function whilst the body is at complete rest.
Heart- the thyroid hormones are involved with normal cardiac function and circulation.
Musculoskeletal-without adequate thyroid hormones growth of the bones and muscles can be seen, in extreme cases this can lead to abnormalities, particularly in infants.
Cholesterol levels- thyroid hormones increase the amount of cholesterol that is excreted from the body, a lack of Iodine can lead to an increase in cholesterol and the associated health risks.
Protein and carbohydrate synthesis- the body uses protein and carbohydrate synthesis as energy sources; a lack of thyroid hormones reduces this synthesis and leads to tiredness.
Pregnancy- the thyroid hormones have a regulatory effect on the female reproductive cycle and allow for a healthy pregnancy. They are also involved in lactation. A severe lack of iodine can cause still births and miscarriage and can also lead to abnormalities such as Cretinism in new-born as well as other developmental problems.
Although Iodine is a trace element and only a very small amount is need by the body each day it is involved in virtually all of the major physical pathways in the body and is absolutely essential for a healthy body.