Iodized salt is table salt mixed with a minute number of various salts of the element iodine. The ingestion of iodine prevents iodine deficiency. Worldwide, iodine deficiency affects about two billion people and is the leading preventable cause of intellectual and developmental disabilities. Deficiency also causes thyroid gland problems, including endemic goiter. In many countries, iodine deficiency is a major public health problem that can be cheaply addressed by purposely adding small amounts of iodine to the sodium chloride salt.
Iodine is a micronutrient and dietary mineral that is naturally present in the food supply in some regions, especially near sea coasts but is generally quite rare in the Earth’s crust since iodine is a heavy element, and abundance of chemical elements generally declines with greater atomic mass. Where natural levels of iodine in the soil are low and the iodine is not taken up by vegetables, iodine added to salt provides the small but essential amount of iodine needed by humans.
Four inorganic compounds are used as iodide sources, depending on the producer: potassium iodate, potassium iodide, sodium iodate, and sodium iodide. Any of these compounds supplies the body with its iodine required for the biosynthesis of thyroxine and triiodothyronine hormones by the thyroid gland. Animals also benefit from iodine supplements, and the hydrogen iodide derivative of ethylenediamine is the main supplement to livestock feed.
Salt is an effective vehicle for distributing iodine to the public because it does not spoil and is consumed in more predictable amounts than most other commodities. For example, the concentration of iodine in salt has gradually increased in Switzerland: 3.75 mg/kg in 1952, 7.5 mg/kg in 1962, 15 mg/kg in 1980, 20 mg/kg in 1998, and 25 mg/kg in 2014. These increases were found to improve iodine status in the general Swiss population.
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Healthy iodized salt