Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Please Pass the Iodized Salt, No Goitering

by Connie Cortright

Photo from Wikicommons
We don't see someone looking like the picture on the left much anymore today. This woman has a goiter on her neck. A goiter is a lump in the area of the neck caused from the swelling of the thyroid gland located at the base of the neck. Back in the early 20th century, especially in the area of the Great Lakes and the Pacific Northwest, goiters affected many people, including small children. The thyroid gland can swell to this size when there is a lack of iodine in a person's diet. The soil in those regions didn't contain enough iodine, and thus, their food didn't either.

Our country wasn't the only one with the goiter problems. During the late 1800s several scientists were doing experimental work using iodine to combat goiters. By 1915 a Swiss doctor,  Dr. Bayard, experimented with school children. He used salt, containing a small amount of iodine, in their diet to find out if it made a difference. He could see the goiters decrease the longer he used the iodized salt in their food. When he stopped using the iodized salt, the goiters would increase in size. By 1922, Switzerland passed a law requiring iodine to be used in salt throughout the entire country.

David Cowie, chairman of the Pediatrics Department at the University of Michigan, conducted a similar study in his state in 1922. When he found the same results, he urged Michigan to adopt the iodized salt solution for their goiter outbreak and developed the Iodized Salt Committee to push the same solution nationwide. On May 1, 1924 iodized salt was available on grocery shelves in Michigan.

The Morton Salt Company didn't object to this inexpensive change. They readily changed their salt formulas by adding a small amount of iodine. All of the states didn't find the necessity of doing this, but the number of goiters shrunk considerably where the iodized salt was in use. Today countries the world over used iodized salt to help with this health problem.

I remember my grandma talking about goiters when I was little. I'm glad we don't share this problem with our grandparents/great-grandparents. Now I know why it's important to choose iodized salt when I'm in the grocery store.

It has also been shown that a lack of iodine during pregnancy can influence the mental health of a baby. It has been linked to difficulty with mental processing, coordination, extreme fatigue, and depression. Maybe we could use that excuse when a doctor tells us to cut down on our salt intake.

Please pass the salt.

Information taken from Why iodine is added to salt and History of US Iodine Fortification


  1. I have vague memories of talk of iodine in grade school, but does anyone think about it today? I take Iodized salt for granted.

  2. The articles said that today it's not as important since food is shipped from so far away that you'd get enough iodine. However, my husband's doctor has him taking Kelp tablets to boost his iodine - for his heart - so there must be some concern that he had a iodine deficiency.