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Salt and Iodine

Salt and iodine. Every Australian is being advised to change from plain salt to iodised salt, because of recent evidence of mild but widespread iodine deficiency.

WARNING—seawater and sea salt are very poor sources of iodine.  What makes seaweed and sea fish good sources is that they spend their lives extracting the iodine from seawater.

Iodised salt used to be a good idea. The great bugbear of a dietary supplement is remembering to take it. When iodised salt was invented early in the 20th century, everybody who changed to iodised salt could forget about iodine—they got it automatically whenever they used salt. It worked well when everybody bought salt, cooked with it and added it at the table.

Iodised salt in fact was one of the greatest advances the world has ever seen in public health. Only recently it rescued Tibet from iodine deficiency so severe that even cretinism (incurable mental retardation at birth) was common. All Tibetans used salt, but the terrain and lack of infrastructure made it difficult to replace plain salt with iodised salt everywhere.  When this was accomplished, it had brilliant results.

Later, when Tibet is ready to prevent hypertension and stroke, it will need another carrier for iodine—as Australia does today—to allow salt to be phased out, as foreseen by the US government in the whole American population—see http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/new/press/may17-00.htm

Salt no longer works so well for selling iodine in supermarkets—too many people know it causes health problems—but you will find several good salt-free sources of iodine in more information. Iodised bread works the way that iodised salt used to work (children get a proportional dose and nobody has to remember to take their iodine).

Iodised bread. In Tasmania iodised bread already gives people enough iodine without having to think about it—as happened when iodised salt was first invented. Nowadays we realise that women need even more iodine when pregnant or breast-feeding, and at those times a doctor or pharmacist can suggest a suitable supplement.

In October 2009 iodisation of bread became mandatory throughout Australia, but bakers are using iodised salt (iodisation was considered so urgent).  Everybody who needs "salt-free" bread can use a breadmaker and iodise their own bread whenever they like with potassium iodide drops, and get their iodine automatically without having to remember to take it.

A local pharmacist may agree to make up 0.4% potassium iodide drops in 10% alcohol (preservative). You can give the pharmacist full details if you download and print pharmacists.

You can also buy the drops by mail order from Hobart Friendly Care Pharmacy, telephone (03) 6234 1553, FAX (03) 6234 1669, email rsewellhfcp@netspace.net.au, mail 103 Liverpool Street, Hobart, TAS 7000, Australia. In 2007 the price was $5.00 for a 15 mL dropper bottle, with postage extra at $2.00 to $3.00 depending on the postcode. See further details about the drops in more information.


Page last modified on: Wednesday 21 Oct, 2009

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