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Believe it, or not, that pinch of salt, with a dash of iodine, is your best defence against a host of developmental disorders.

Iodine deficiency is at the root of goitre, growth (physical and mental) retardation, low IQ, irreversible brain damage, squint, deaf-mutism, infertility, still births and spontaneous abortions.

“From the womb to old age, there is some effect that iodine deficiency leaves on a person - that is the significance of iodine. Iodine can be found in marine products or other foods fortified with iodine, including salt,” says Meenakshi Bajaj, dietician, Government General Hospital.

Research has shown that Iodine Deficiency Disorders includes a range of conditions from stunting to premature birth and work is on to establish whether it could affect maturation of lungs adds Kapil Yadav, senior programme officer, International Council for Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders, AIIMS.

What began as a community-based trial of targeted iodine fortification in specific districts became a national campaign in 1986. Now, all salt, is by law (Prevention of Adulteration Act) required to be iodised before it is sold for human consumption in the country.

The cost, according to him, is negligible at five paise per person per year.

Nuclear medicine specialist E. Prabhu, while putting forth the view that excess iodisation can harm hormonal levels, is articulating the opinion of endocrinologists. Aggressive iodisation, especially in coastal climes, could lead to excessive goitre presentation in the population, he says.

The recommended level is 150 micrograms per person per day in India, Dr. Yadav explains.

About 1,000 milligram per person per day is considered safe.

“The thing about salt is that no matter how much you consume, you cannot take it in excess so the iodine in it can reach levels of toxicity,” he says.

Repeated studies in the country have showed that in 263 districts, including coastal ones, IDD was a public health issue.

His advice to the consumer is to look for iodisation notification on the pack of salt before picking it up.

Also make sure it tells you just how much iodine there is in it – 15 parts per million at the consumer level.

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