World Iodine Deficiency Day 2020: Hyperthyroidism, goitre and associated disorders remain a concern in India
The survey conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research in 2012 shows that 350 million people in India do not consume sufficient amounts of iodized salt and therefore continue to be at risk of IDD.
World Iodine Deficiency Day, also known as Global Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD) Prevention Day, is observed on 21 October every year to spread awareness about that essential micronutrient everyone needs for proper thyroid function, brain development and overall growth - iodine. The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that IDD is the world’s most prevalent cause of brain damage, even though it is highly preventable.
IDD can start before birth and jeopardise a child’s survival since iodine deficiency in a pregnant woman can cause stillbirth, not to mention the developmental issues, intellectual deficiency, congenital abnormalities and mental health problems it can lead to. The WHO, based on its Global Database on Iodine Deficiency, reports that while many nations have been able to overcome iodine deficiency with the widespread use of iodized salt, 54 countries are still iodine deficient. Universal salt iodisation is a global primary strategy for IDD control that was started in 1993 and it has helped most nations make strides in overcoming this endemic health problem.
Invisible hand of iodine deficiency in India
A study published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research (IJMR) in 2013 indicated that the entire population of India is at risk of IDD due to the soil of the subcontinent lacking in iodine. As a result, the wide variety of grains, lentils, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds grown in India do not have sufficient amounts of iodine. No matter what type of diet you have in India, the amount of iodine in it is, therefore, very low and needs to be supplemented with the use of salt that is fortified with iodine.
The survey conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in 2012 shows that 350 million people in India do not consume sufficient amounts of iodized salt and therefore continue to be at risk of IDD. The study shows that, currently, 91 percent of Indian households have access to iodized salt but only 71 percent of them consume adequate amounts of it. India’s goal to reduce the national prevalence of IDD below 10 percent by 2012 was, therefore, not met.
According to a recent survey by Nutrition International, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and the Indian Coalition for the Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders (ICCIDD), the percentage of Indian households that consumed adequate amounts of iodized salt in 2018-2019 increased to 82.1 percent. The survey showed that the awareness about iodised salt was higher in urban areas (62.2 percent) than in rural areas (50.5 percent), and most respondents found electronic mass media campaigns useful in spreading awareness.
Grave effects of IDD
While this data is heartening, the need for greater awareness and use of iodized salt remains a critical goal for the Indian healthcare system. Along with highlighting the need for greater and more widespread consumption of iodized salt, campaigns should also focus on highlighting the many negative effects of IDD, especially among pregnant women and families. The following are some serious effects of IDD that the Indian population should be aware of.
1. High infant mortality: The WHO mentions that iodine is essential for the production of maternal and foetal thyroid hormones. These hormones regulate the growth and development of the foetus. If there is a severe deficiency, the very survival of the baby in the womb may be threatened; it could also lead to congenital abnormalities.
2. Goitre: Globally, around 90 percent of goitre cases are caused by iodine deficiency. Since iodine deficiency decreases the production of essential thyroid hormones, it inflames the thyroid gland and causes the enlargement associated with goitre.
3. Hypothyroidism: Iodine deficiency is also the most common cause of hypothyroidism. This is because as the iodine levels in the body drop, the production of thyroid hormones is severely impaired, leading to the development of this chronic disease.
4. Cretinism: Also known as congenital hypothyroidism, cretinism refers to the severe underactivity of the thyroid gland at birth, predominantly due to lack of iodine during pregnancy and foetal development. Cretinism causes growth retardation, delayed development and abnormal features or defects in children.
5. Mental retardation: Iodine deficiency causes irreversible brain damage, which in turn can cause irreversible mental retardation, especially in children. Mental retardation can cause serious intellectual disability, social isolation and mental health issues later in life.
For more information, read our article on Iodine deficiency.
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