In 1509, Michelangelo wrote to a friend that his goiter was so large his “chin and belly meet perforce in one (and) my beard doth point to heaven.” A goiter is an abnormal swelling of the thyroid, the butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the neck, commonly caused by an iodine deficiency. In the early 20th century, the upper part of the U.S. was called the Goiter Belt. Iodized salt was introduced in 1924, and dairy cow feed was supplemented with iodine; those additions have been credited with the near eradication of goiters.
So why has the Counsel for Responsible Nutrition recently sounded an alarm about the need for supplemental iodine? Iodine intake has dropped almost 20 percent in the past 50 years as people reduced their salt intake and now use fancy (Himalayan pink salt anyone?), unsupplemented salts.
Besides avoiding goiter (you don’t want them coming back again), iodine is required for normal fetal brain development in utero and during infants’ first 12 months, when they’re often breastfeeding. That’s why the CRN says multivitamin/mineral supplements intended for pregnant and lactating women should include at least 150 mcg of iodine to make sure they get a total daily intake of 220-290 mcg. (Other adults need a total of 150 mcg daily.) If you take your appropriate multivitamin/minerals and eat fish such as wild salmon (70 mcg per serving), you’ll get plenty of iodine.